The death toll from measles in Samoa is continuing to rise, but the government says thanks to a two day mass vaccination programme 89 percent of people have now been vaccinated. This is Samoa’s measles crisis, in pictures.

A mum and her son turn up to Poutasi District Hospital’s measles ward. There are four infected children here. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Another child at Poutasi. His auntie tells us the nurse thinks he’s getting better, but doesn’t know when he can go home. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

A young teen at Poutasi. While he will be discharged soon, others have had to be rushed by ambulance to the main hospital in Apia. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Paulo Tuivale Puelua lost three of his five children to measles. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Meanwhile the village kids are getting the message about vaccination. Face masks are a common sight in Samoa. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Church on Sunday: Beautiful singing, passionate preaching, but almost no children. The government has banned any gathering involving children – including upcoming Christmas celebrations. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Flouting the law: as part of an effort to get 90 percent of the population vaccination the government banned citizens from moving on the roads on Thursday and Friday while vaccination teams visited. Some people tried their luck, but at police checkpoints were told to go home. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

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Many Samoans are still turning to traditional healing as a measles cure. Unlike some, this healer tells her customers to get vaccinated. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

But there are a lot of children here, and none are wearing face masks. They are also lining up outside. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

More than 120 vaccination teams went out on Thursday across Samoa. We were told at the end of the day about 5500 vaccinations were given out on the first day of the government shutdown. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Little Frederick became big news both in NZ and Samoa after he was denied a vaccination in New Zealand before travelling home to Samoa. That is despite the NZ government sending 100,000 vaccines to the Island nation. He is being kept quarantined at his godparents home until the epidemic is over. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Lupino and Fala’i lost their 18-month-year old son Sione to measles. We wasn’t vaccinated. They are pleading other parents to get their kids immunized. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

They, along with many other families who have lost children, are receiving help from Samoan Victim Support Group. The SVSG teams roam the country giving out food, clothes, and other supplies. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

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Lanuola Naseri, of Faleu Manono, lost her four-year-old son Tivoli. She has no parents and little in the way of family support. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Despite the tragedy, many Samoans are giving generously to try and help. These people are chopping food as part of grassroots charity Helping Hands. (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

It will be sent to the victim’s families as well as the nurses and doctors caring for them (PHOTO: RNZ / Logan Church)

Two more deaths in the past 24 hours have pushed the toll to 65, with 165 people still in hospital, as the country is gripped by the disease. These include 20 critically ill children and three pregnant women. Of the deaths, at least 55 have been in children under five.

The government ordered a shutdown of the nation on Thursday and Friday to try to cope with the epidemic.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said more than 20,000 vaccines were administered over the space of the two-day lockdown designed to stem the tide of the deadly measles epidemic, with vaccination teams visiting households to administer shots.

The Samoan government said the two day shutdown of the country to allow as many as possible to be vaccinated has resulted in a massive increase in coverage.

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The director of the Disaster Advisory Committee, Ulu Bismarck Crawley, said the national vaccination rate is now 89 percent, including 82 percent of children under 5, the most at risk group.

The government said that having successfully vaccinated so many people, it can now concentrate on treating the infected.

A goal of 90 percent vaccination coverage for the country had been hoped for, however last year coverage had fallen to as low as a third.

On Monday, Samoa expanded the eligibility of the vaccination programme, which has been made mandatory under local law.

Measles vaccinations are now available for people aged six months to 60 years.

The Samoan Ministry of Health says there have been 4357 measles cases reported since the outbreak began.

With the epidemic in full swing, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are calling for a renewed effort to eliminate measles.

The disease killed 140,000 people last year – mostly children – and globally cases in 2018 were up 167 per cent compared with 2016, according to new figures released by the CDC and the WHO earlier this week.

Over the last 18 years, the WHO and the CDC estimate measles vaccinations have saved more than 23 million lives. /radionz