Ministry of Health CEO Siale 'Akau'ola

The Tongan government has written to people intending to travel overseas, asking them to hold off until next week when  more vaccines are expected to arrive.

Airport banners in Tongan and English have been created and are being distributed to all airports that cater for international flights, including Vava’u (flights to/ from Samoa and Fiji).

The Ministry of Health said that excluding vaccine being held on other islands, the vaccine supply on the main island of Tongatapu is down to 1400 doses. 

UNICEF delivered 7000 doses of the MR vaccine to Tonga on November 22 and another 6000 doses are on their way.

UNICEF said it had delivered more than 260,000 vaccines and medical supplies to fight measles outbreaks in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. It said Samoa, where seven people have died, was the worst affected of the island  nations.

Samoan authorities declared a measles epidemic in November.

Vaccinations

Medical teams in Tonga had given 11,869 vaccinations in response to the outbreak of measles by November 22.

Ministry of Health chief executive Siale ‘Akau’ola told Radio New Zealand teams had been sent to high schools, initially in areas where there were pockets of outbreaks, to re-vaccinate people.

The Ministry of Health said the vaccination programme was targeting groups with the greatest risk of infection, or severe illness, including infants aged six to 11 months, extended family contacts of suspected and confirmed cases, adolescents  and  young  adults  aged  10  to  24.

Primary schools will remain closed until the end of the year.

Secondary schools will remain open for the final weeks of term. 

Schools have been asked to reduce the size of their graduation ceremonies.

A week-long gathering of around 5000 Catholic  youth members from around the Pacific planned for the coming week has been cancelled.

The Ministry of Health has noted that about 1000 seasonal workers will be leaving Tonga to work in agricultural roles in Australia and New Zealand in coming months and will require vaccination.

The measles outbreak has had repercussions in other countries. As we reported last week, the Tongan women’s rugby team had to withdraw from the Oceania Rugby Championships in Fiji after the team was quarantined for measles.

The team was quarantined for 18 days after one player was suspected of having measles, and tests were conducted on Sunday.

Outbreak

By November 26, 394 cases of confirmed or suspected measles had been identified in Tonga.

Most of the cases – 344 – have occurred on Tongatapu, where the outbreak began.  Another outbreak on Vava’u has  caused 44 cases.

Another five cases of rash illness have occurred in children on the island of ‘Eua, with a single case of rash illness in a child notified on Ha’apai. 

Most of the sick people are school students and most are male.

Eight people have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths.

Measles broke out in Tonga in October.

The outbreak has been traced to members of a squad of rugby players who returned from New Zealand. The first players became infected in New Zealand and another 12 players became ill after returning to Tonga.

For more information

Situation report. Tonga Measles Outbreak 2019 https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/SITREP7_Measles_Tonga_27112019%20.pdf

Tonga women forced from Oceania Cup over measles concerns

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