Following the outbreak reports of measles in the Pacific, the Ministry of Health (MoH) and its partners are strongly encouraging all parents to make sure their children are vaccinated and people leaving the country to immunize themselves to prevent the risks of measles coming into the country.

Currently, there are no measles cases in Vanuatu, however following the chronological outbreaks occurring in our neighbouring countries of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga and the latest report coming from Fiji. These outbreaks all create an increased risk of the virus being introduced to Vanuatu.

Fiji is the third country declaring a measles outbreak after Tonga and Samoa last month.

The airborne virus is a highly infectious disease that can spread to anyone who has not yet been vaccinated with a measles vaccine. There is however a specific treatment for measles where patients can be recovered in 2-3 weeks’ time.

The MoH is calling all members of the publish who are travelling abroad to check their immunization status and potentially get a dose of measles vaccine at least 15 days before departing.

Parents are advised to bring their children for a measles vaccination at their nearest health centres or the hospital.

There have been some reported cases where parents refuse to comply, the Ministry of Health wished to notify parents of the consequences and high risks of measles which has led to numerous death reports over the years. In short, if a parent refuse to vaccinate their child, once they are exposed to measles, the parents will be responsible for any death occurrences that may occur.

On October 14 2019, a Measles Task Force was endorsed by the Ministry to set up a fully functional system to detect measles. The plan was developed in September following the outbreak report in New Zealand and the high risk for RSE workers to acquire and import measles into the country.

The task force has a mission to develop preparedness and response plans, to increase public awareness and to advise the public on the importance of immunization policy within communities. The team will also vaccinate certain individuals who are at a high risk of getting measles, including RSE seasonal workers.

The overall objectives of the preparedness and response plan is to prevent the disease outbreak, increase communication and awareness among the general population, ensure early detections are made using the active surveillance system in place and a proper clinical management of confirmed cases.

The MoH also confirmed that if there is at least one confirmed case of measles in Vanuatu, it will declare a measles outbreak where Emergency Operations Center both at the National and Provincial levels will be activated following the emergency response.

The Ministry is calling on Chiefs, pastors and community leaders to pass on the message to their communities in order to prevent the measles outbreak in Vanuatu.