Families fearing measles take children back for vaccination

The death of a baby from suspected measles is compelling families – who vowed not to get their children vaccinated following two infant deaths last year – to return to the hospital for vaccination.

A lot of families in Samoa have refused to take their children in for Ministry of Health (MOH)-supervised vaccination following the deaths last year of two infants in Savai’i, after they were administered with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in hospitals on the big island.

Two nurses were sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Supreme Court in August this year over the two infants’ deaths. 

But a measles outbreak in New Zealand and reports of suspected cases in Samoa – which the local health authorities believe was brought in by a visitor – has led to fears amongst families that their children are vulnerable.

A 51-year-old grandmother of Faleasiu, Augata Tulei, told the Samoa Observer that one of her grandchildren has already been vaccinated and the second one will also be treated. 

“When I first heard of the measles outbreak that has gotten to Samoa from my children in New Zealand, I got scared and having vaccinating them and not vaccinating them are two different risks,” she said.

“But I’m more comfortable to take the risk of vaccinating my grandchildren since measles is in Samoa now and that it has already taken a life of an infant.”

Mrs. Tulei – who was at the Motootua hospital on Monday night – said a lot of patients at the hospital wearing facemasks got her worried. 

For 38-year-old Tuua Faamausili, who comes from Lalomanu, she got her one-year-old daughter vaccinated during the MMR vaccination patrol at the Lalomanu hospital.  

“I’ve always doubted and still am doubting the vaccination because of the poor children that died from it, but it’s scary now how the measles has quickly spread from New Zealand to Samoa and imagine how fast it will spread around our country?” she said.

But it was the death of a one-year-old baby boy from suspected measles on White Sunday which compelled 42-year-old Si’i Livingstone of Vaivase to take her two children 8-month-old granddaughter to the hospital’s outpatient on Monday night to be vaccinated. 

“So I got one of my daughters whose baby is 8 months old baby to get us to the hospital all of a sudden,” she said.

“We were having tea until one of the relatives who was on Facebook informed us and I suddenly got scared. Before I told my children that we will never take our children to be vaccinated, but the moment I heard the news I suddenly got scared so its a risk worth taking.”

The outpatient at the hospital at Motootua was busy on Monday night with families taking their children in after reports on the death of the one-year-old baby from suspected measles on Sunday went viral on social media. 

A security guard, who also wore a facemask, had to restrict entry into the hospital outpatient and only allowed one guardian to accompany the sick.

Suisami Gerrard, a 75-year-old New Zealand-based Samoan who was at the hospital with her husband Ken Gerrard, said she was worried seeing measles spread from New Zealand to Samoa.

“To me, whatever I do it will fall on me whether measles or whatever so you just gotta be careful about yourself or your families that you live with,” she said.

“And other than that you can’t help if you get measles because its spread but be sure to be extra careful at all times.

“I had measles too when I was a kid and it’s pretty dangerous and seeing it spread here in Samoa, it kind of worries me.”

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