Acting against anti-vaccine individuals

World Children’s Day – which is celebrated globally on November 20 by UN member states – went by quietly the other day in our part of the world. 

In fact, November 20 marks an important milestone in the history of the UN as the date in 1959 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Thirty years later, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted, ensuring that all the rights of the children from a civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural perspective were adopted. 

It was a landmark treaty that Samoa ratified in 1994 and served as the foundation for subsequent legislation to protect the rights and welfare of children, which were led by the Samoa Law Reform Commission.

But with the measles epidemic continuing to claim more lives throughout the length and breadth of the country, it is all hands-on-deck for the authorities as they go into overdrive to halt the spread of the deadly virus.

It is tragic that on the day marked by the UN to celebrate unity and awareness among children worldwide on their welfare, we in Samoa continue to see the young and most vulnerable in the community falling victim to measles.

While we sympathise and mourn with the families who have lost loved ones in this public health crisis, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to assist the authorities where we can, and to put on notice unscrupulous individuals who through their actions and thoughts endanger the lives of ordinary citizens, especially our children.

Therefore, you can imagine our reporters’ sigh of relief and thumbs up to the powers-that-be, when the Samoa government sent through revised state of emergency orders last night, which warned against anyone who discouraged or prevented members of the community from receiving their vaccinations.

The order, which was signed the Attorney General’s Office and the Samoa Police Service, states:

“All State of Emergency Orders issued at this time by the Cabinet with Head of State approval, are legally binding on the community during a declared state of emergency. The specific order therefore to vaccinate is compulsory, and is to be complied with,” the order states.

“Any person that actively discourages or prevents in any way members of the community from receiving their vaccination injection, is hereby warned, to cease immediately, and is similarly warned not to take any further action of that kind.”

We applaud the Samoa Government, the Ministry of Health, the Attorney General’s Office and the Samoa Police Service for being proactive, in our collective bid to stop the misinformation being circulated by individuals to dissuade families from taking their children in for life-saving vaccination.

In fact we are aware of individuals, who have made it their business to use social media platforms, to circulate their fake claims about the dangers of immunisation. With the added state of emergency orders released last night by the Samoa government, it is time for members of the public to get screenshots of Facebook posts by those propagating anti-vaccination messages otherwise colloquially known as anti-vaxxers, and send them to the authorities including the Police.

With the measles epidemic also recording over 1100 cases and 16 deaths – most of them children who have died either from measles or severe complications triggered by the virus – we must not turn a blind eye to an individual’s conduct or social media messages posted by people that can put lives in danger.

We acknowledge the social media updates on the measles epidemic in recent days by the Samoa government and urge our readers to share the posts far and wide, to ensure ordinary Samoans get the correct information on vaccination venues and times.

But an area needing the immediate attention of the authorities are “alternative medicine”, which are being offered by individuals as treatment for measles, without any medical or scientific basis and their proponents lacking any form of specialised training in the field of medicine. Those propagating such alternative medicine during the state of emergency, without the lawful sanction and authority of the Ministry of Health, should be pulled in by the law and their operations immediately shutdown.

With the death toll from the measles epidemic likely to increase as we see the end of another week, we should all give our 110 per cent to contain the spread of the virus, by encouraging families to get their most vulnerable immediately vaccinated.

Let’s stay safe Samoa and God bless. 

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