Measles Vaccination Saves Lives

Recently a measles epidemic resulted in several deaths among the tribal people. For this reason, two American missionary families living and working among these people asked a doctor friend from Papua, Matthias and I to come and offer vaccinations to prevent another outbreak. We left on Wednesday morning and flew almost an hour to the lowlands area of Papua to a place where the affected people live.

After reaching the place, we counted out all the vaccines, weighed all the extra food and clothes to hand out, loaded the two missionaries and a local nurse into the helicopter, and took off. Some of the villages we flew to can take up to 12 hours walking to, but with the helicopter no more than 8 minutes. In the first village, the Chief of the village had gathered all the people together in the church. First the Pastor prayed, then the Doctor explained exactly what we were doing and what side effects there might be after the immunization. My job was to write down the personal details of each person to be vaccinated. I loved my role, but it was very difficult! I was not familiar with the tribal language, and most of them did not know how to spell their name or exactly how old they were. Often when I asked a mother how old her child was, they answered with “well they have all their teeth.”

In two days we flew to six villages and were able to immunize over 300 people against the measles virus. In addition, the doctor treated a few patients. My husband amazed me as we flew over each new village, I would look down and think “where could he possibly land?” But he is a good pilot and knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going. For him the safety of the passengers and the people on the ground has priority. I really love getting to hear all the stories my husband Matthias comes home with after his flights, but to be able to go and see it for myself and experience it firsthand was a special blessing!

Vasanthy Weber, wife of Pilot Matthias

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