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TUESDAY, Dec. 31, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Slowing infection rates and a surge in vaccinations have prompted the South Pacific island of Samoa to end a six-week state of emergency over a measles outbreak, the BBC reported Sunday.

Over 5,600 people were infected with highly contagious measles and 81 died — many of the fatalities were babies and young children.

According to the BBC, Samoa is home to 200,000 and had rates of measles vaccination that were much lower than those of neighboring countries.

But a massive immunization drive conducted earlier this month has lifted the number of Samoans now vaccinated against measles to 95%. At the same time, schools were closed, travel and public gatherings restricted and people who had not been vaccinated had red flags planted outside their residences.

According to the BBC, anti-vaccination trends began to spread in Samoa after the deaths of two children in 2018. At the time, people attributed the deaths to the children’s recent vaccination with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. But it was later proven that the deaths had been caused by nurses who erroneously mixed the vaccine with muscle relaxant rather than water.

The children’s tragic deaths were then exploited by “anti-vaxxer” campaigners who raised fears among Samoans about the safety of vaccines, the BBC said.

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