Vaccinations to resume, M.O.H. assures of safety

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has assured the public that vaccines are safe and children should be protected as the Ministry prepares to resume its mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccination programme next Monday.

MOH Director General, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, said the vaccines used in Samoa are prequalified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and are therefore safe for use.

He said the checks by the WHO were thorough to ensure the vaccines are suitable for children, and the Government's vaccination program has a long history, dating back to pre-independence days. 

“We are currently in a critical period where parents and families have fears and suspicions on the vaccine. But vaccinations are not new in Samoa, it happened ever since before independence, it was through these vaccines that protected the lives of children from various diseases, that (could have) resulted in deaths.

“These vaccines will protect you throughout your lives from encountering diseases, we urge our people to consider what is good for their kids, in terms of ridding them of various diseases that can harm them and no parent wants to see their children sick – vaccination will ensure your child is safe.

 “We have done tests and concluded that the vaccine is safe, but of course only upon a human error and how it was carried out but our Ministry gave all our nurses and doctors training, to ensure the proper methods and carried out is done well,” he said.

Leausa said that they have noticed that there was a low turnout for other vaccination programs, but getting a child vaccinated is the only way to protect children from the threat posed by diseases. 

“At the moment cases of measles were found in Australia and New Zealand but we all know that diseases can spread and to ensure the safety of your child they must be vaccinated. All hospitals both Upolu and Savaii will be conducting the vaccination,” he added.

MOH Immunisation Programme national coordinator, Fuapepe Iese Manuleleua, echoed similar sentiments on the importance of vaccines and its role in protecting children. 

“The importance of these vaccines is to act as a protection for the children against harmful virus that can result to them becoming ill," she said.

The vaccination programme should also include adopted children, with Fuapepe saying even those who are still undergoing the legal adoption process whose lives should not be put at risk. 

“There are some cases where people who were given babies, but have not fully underwent the legal processes they tend to not bring the infants – with beliefs that they will be discovered as not the parents – but our advice is to put the safety of these infants first and protect them from any harmful diseases may befall them."

Fuapepe said parents of babies who were born at home and not in a hospital should also take their child in.

“We are trying to bring home the message to the parents and families that vaccination is very important,” she added.

The MOH will also be making available informed consent forms to the public, which the MOH Director General said will show parents and guardians the vaccination programme process, the importance of vaccinating children, and what to do if a child suffers from side effects and complications. 

“Doctors and nurses specialised with vaccination underwent training we are currently monitoring the work of everyone doing vaccination throughout all hospitals in both Upolu and Savaii,” he added. 

Fuapepe indicated that there has also be a change in how health officials administered the vaccine.

“Before it used to be done by two nurses but now only one nurse can do both – diluting the vaccine and administer right and every vaccine must be double checked – before we give it to the recipient,” she added. 

The decision by the Ministry to resume the MMR vaccination programme comes nine months after two 12-month-old babies in Savai'i who were administered with the vaccine died, compelling the Samoa Government to impose a moratorium to allow for investigations. Two nurses have been charged with manslaughter in relation to the incident and are currently on trial. 

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