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MMR vaccinations to resume from April 15

The Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed it will resume vaccinating against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) from April 15 as well as vaccinate anyone who missed out while the vaccine was suspended.

Following the deaths of two babies after receiving their MMR vaccines in July last year, the routine was suspended while an inquiry determines if the vaccine itself was to blame.

Chief Executive Officer of MOH Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said training has been conducted for health professionals and new refrigerators are in place to properly store vaccines. With these and other precautions in place, he is ready to resume the vaccination program nationwide, he said.

“MMR is 100 per cent safe,” Leausa said.

“We have a lot of work to win back the confidence of our people to the vaccination process but naturally we have a lot of people coming and requesting the immunization. They are concerned about their children.” 

Leausa said from April 15 the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital will be vaccinating all children, including those who missed out between July and April, and any adults who want to be vaccinated. The district hospitals will be resuming their programs as required.

The newly appointed regional director of the World Health Organisation Dr Takeshi Kasai said knowing the Samoan government took on a “rigorous investigation” he supports restarting the measles vaccine.

“What I am concerned about is that currently with measles, globally, there is a surge, an increased outbreak around the world,” Dr Kasai said.

“I want to commend what [Samoa] have done and I really want to see them start as soon as possible.”

Dr Kasai, who will be the regional director of Western Pacific of WHO for the next five years, said he supported the way Samoa handled the deaths of the two babies, saying it is what is expected of a responsible government.

“Program management, storage and WHO has worked very closely with the government to upgrade their own protocols and this is what we are expecting a responsible government to do,” the doctor said.

“I understand for example they installed a different refrigerator and organized training for healthcare workers involved in vaccinations."

Meanwhile, Leausa said MOH has been vaccinating adults travelling to New Zealand for seasonal work who have approached them and requested it, and they continue to monitor the border and surrounding islands of Samoa to track the spread of measles.

Samoa expects to begin vaccinating against human papilloma virus (HPV), diarrhea and pneumonia, thanks to a US$7.5 million (T$19.5 million) grant from the Asian Development Bank Special Fund. Samoa itself is also spending $11.85 million on the campaign.

These vaccines are not cheap, Dr Kasai said, but he is pleased to see Samoa investing in them.

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