American Anti-Vaxxers Target Samoa, Severe Measles Outbreak Reported

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending help after the Samoan government reported a severe measles outbreak, according to U.S. officials Tuesday.

The outbreak, declared Oct. 16, is a result of multiple factors, according to Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine safety expert in New Zealand, The Washington Post reported. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., former President John F. Kennedy’s nephew, visited Samoa in June and is a prominent anti-vaccine activist.

Robert Kennedy was seen next to officials at Samoan celebrations, but the visit was “for a program that is not government-related,” an official previously told Samoan news media, according to WaPo. Robert Kennedy believes vaccines cause autism despite extensive research disproving this belief. Multiple family members have publicly come out against Robert Kennedy for spreading “dangerous misinformation,” according to WaPo.

“I am deeply honored to have been in the presence of a man I believe is, can and will change the course of history,” Australian Samoan anti-vaccine activist Taylor Winterstein wrote for an Instagram picture featuring Robert Kennedy in Samoa. (RELATED: Instagram To Block Anti-Vaccine Ads By Labeling Them Misinformation)

Robert Kennedy also wrote a letter Nov. 19 to Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi urging officials to further look into the MMR vaccine, WaPo wrote. This letter came after the official Oct. 16 outbreak.

“To safeguard public health during the current infection and in the future, it is critical that the Samoan Health Ministry determine, scientifically, if the outbreak was caused by inadequate vaccine coverage or alternatively, by a defective vaccine,” the letter reads.

Children under 5 years old make up almost half of the measles cases in Samoa and 31% of infants in the country received the measles vaccine in 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

American Samoa, a U.S. territory, now requires proof of immunization for travelers from nearby countries because measles has been named an urgent public health priority, WaPo reported. The outbreak appears to just be getting started as the Health Ministry said 243 cases were reported in just 24 hours.

Part of this outbreak could be due to the deaths of two infants after receiving the measles outbreak. Nurses accidentally mixed the vaccine with another drug, which caused the deaths, according to Wapo.

“The public were never told, for months, that it wasn’t the vaccine that killed the babies, which really was the most important message,” Petousis-Harris said.

This measles outbreak echos that of the 2019 measles cases in the U.S. Once believed to be eliminated in America, outbreaks have spread as more people question the safety of vaccines. Measles has affected multiple countries, with the more severe outbreak being seen in the Philippines, WaPo reported.

“It does not appear, from the numbers we’ve been seeing, that it has peaked yet,” Petousis-Harris noted.

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