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Support for Samoa during the measles epidemic

“E lutia i Pu’ava, ae mapu i Fagalele” (Translated: “distress at Pu’ava but we will rest in Fagalele”) meaning the present may be bad with the measles in Samoa, but better times are ahead.

AH+ Nurse Advisor, Joe Glassie-Rasmussen was in the first cohort of eight nurses who were sent to Samoa from New Zealand as part of the medical emergency response to the measles outbreak.

Counties Manukau Health are taking the lead on the response and nurses are being deployed to Samoa on a weekly rotation for an initial period of four weeks.

Stationed in Lepea on the island of Upolu, Joe was part of ‘Team 13’ – a combined team of nurses from both Samoa and New Zealand. The days were long and Joe’s team worked from 8am through to 7pm daily in order to help as many people as they could, resulting in the highest number of registered measles immunisations in the surrounding area, during that time period. Team 13 triaged and assessed patients as they presented and collectively administered over 1,000 measles vaccines throughout the week.

Given Joe’s experience as a nurse in the primary care and community setting in NZ, he was able to support the team by providing guidance on Cold Chain procedures and delivering vaccination education including potential reactions including anaphylaxis, and the appropriate response.

With his depth of knowledge on Cold Chain procedures, Joe was asked to spend a day on the island of Savai’i to provide education and refresher training to the local nurses. This was to ensure the storage and transportation requirements aligned with best practice protocols which is critical in preserving the efficacy of the MMR vaccines.

Joe acknowledged the skills, co-ordination, dedication and hard work of the nursing and medical teams in Samoa, as well as the team-work that is evident both at the front-line and behind the scenes.

The situation in Samoa is heart-breaking and we send our love and prayers to everyone living in Samoa as well as those who are working hard to help protect the people of our dear Pacific neighbour.

The death toll currently stands at 70 with over 4,500 cases reported since the outbreak began.

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