Preschools, daycare closed in Samoa following measles-related deaths of two babies

Preschools and daycare centres have been closed in Samoa as the country battles a measles epidemic.

Health authorities believe it's possible New Zealand transmitted measles to Samoa.

"We are looking at the most vulnerable. Once there's one measles case in the daycare, it's gonna spread like fire. So we have to close it," said Samoa's director-general of health, Dr Leausa Take Naseri.

The disease has been linked to the recent deaths of two babies, aged eight months and 14 months, as well as the death of a 37-year-old.

As of this month, there's been more than 300 suspected cases, mainly affecting children younger than four.

"Everyone should get worried. Especially for a small population like Samoa. One death is enough," said Naseri.

Immunisation rates have dropped in Samoa over the past year after two nurses incorrectly administered the MMR vaccine, causing the death of two babies last July.

It caused the MMR programme to be put on hold, shattering some of the public's trust in the health system.

"It's really important the Samoan authorities demonstrate to their community that they can vaccinate safely for their community. I think Samoa will become very aware of how scary measles is," said Dr Nikki Turner, director of the University of Auckland's Immunisation Advisory Centre.

These latest deaths have already led to busier clinics.

"I have brought my daughter to be vaccinated. It's for her protection. As they say, prevention is better than cure," said one local.

Turner says it's highly possible Samoa's measles epidemic can be traced back to New Zealand. 

"What we know from the New Zealand epidemic is there are high rates of Pacific people catching measles in Auckland right now. There is a lot of transfer and a lot travel from New Zealand into the Pacific Islands," said Turner.

New Zealand's Government is sending medical supplies to Samoa and says it's ready to help in any way it can.

Samoa's government is asking its people to do one thing.

"Do the right thing... vaccinate their children," Naseri told Newshub.