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Australia to help fight rubella in Samoa.



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MEDIA RELEASE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS THE HON CHRIS GALLUS MP

AA 03 076 17 October 2003

Australia to Help Fight Rubella in Samoa

Australia will contribute $200,000 to immunise Samoan infants, school children and women against rubella, the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Chris Gallus, announced today.

'The mass immunisation will help prevent the epidemic from peaking by vaccinating 20,000 children aged between 1-4, 70 000 school children and 45,000 women,' Mrs Gallus said.

'More than 1,000 cases of rubella have been reported with three children having died already from complications caused by untreated rubella.

'Vaccine is in short supply and many families in Samoa cannot afford it and try to treat the illness at home,' Mrs Gallus said.

'More than 50 local nurses will administer the vaccine in schools across the country.

'This will be followed by a maintenance program introducing the vaccine at the age of 12 months as part of the Health Ministry's Expanded Programme of Immunisation,' Mrs Gallus said.

Commonly known as German measles, rubella poses a serious threat to the foetus if contracted by the mother during pregnancy.

Children infected with rubella before birth (congenital rubella) are at risk of growth retardation, malformations of the heart, eyes or brain, deafness and liver, spleen, and bone marrow problems.

Media contacts: Shane Fairlie (Office of Mrs Gallus) 0408 680 442 or 02 6277 4840 Bronwyn Coles (AusAID) 02 6206 4733 or 0418 216 844