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The death of two young siblings in Samoa is an unimaginable tragedy and a clear sign of the risk posed to the Pacific Islands by measles, National’s Associate Pacific Peoples spokesperson Agnes Loheni says.

“A two-year-old boy is believed to have died from measles a week ago, and sadly his younger sister is also now suspected to have died from the virus.

“Julie Anne Genter needs to bring measles under control here in New Zealand so the Pacific Islands aren’t put at risk – there have now been cases in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, and many of those were imported from New Zealand.

“This Government missed the warning signs, from three outbreaks in January and February to a letter from the World Health Organisation advising of the increased risks from measles and the actions that needed to be taken.

“Measles is a preventable disease and every effort should be made to ensure as many Kiwis as possible are vaccinated, not only to protect people in New Zealand, but also our neighbours. The previous National Government introduced health targets that resulted in higher immunisation rates. This Government scrapped them.

“I would like to extend my condolences to all of the families mourning the loss of loved ones and encourage parents to ensure their children’s vaccines are up-to-date.

“These losses will be felt not only in their communities, but also across the Pacific in the Samoan community here in New Zealand.

“The Government must do more to encourage vaccination and get to grips with measles so that both New Zealand and the Pacific are protected from its devastating effects.”

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