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Attorney General issues warning amidst measles crisis

The Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, has warned that those discouraging people from receiving immunisations will face the full force of the law. 

Lemalu told the Samoa Observer that members of the public can report any anti-vaccine advocate who is delaying people from seeking medical assistance. 

The recently-declared state of emergency makes it compulsory for people o receive vaccinations. 

The priority age groups for the mass vaccination campaign are children from 6 months to 19 years old and non-pregnant women between 20 and 35 years old. 

“The order warning the [anti-vaccination advocate in this time of a medical state of emergency, should be taken seriously,” Lemalu told the Samoa Observer. 

“Law enforcement is open to receiving notice, complaints, or evidence of any person or organisation, that is discouraging or going as far as preventing our community from vaccination. 

“There are instances, where there is a delay of attending the hospital, because of the influence of this anti-vaccination mindset.”

Lemalu said police have been informed to attend to complaints and report of anti-vaccination advocates with urgency. 

“This will be looked into and where there is evidence that supports further investigations, our advice to the Police in our discussions on preparing this warning, is that it should be pursued with urgency.”

A law enforcement warning in compliance with vaccination order issued this week warned anti-vaccination advocates to stop discouraging the public from seeking treatment. 

“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 law enforcement warning states, making clear the order to vaccinate is compulsory. 

“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.”

The Chair of the International Committee to the World Health Organisation for measles and rubella, Dr. Nikki Turner, said there is a lot of online misinformation about vaccination. 

In an earlier interview with the Samoa Observer, Dr. Turner dismissed claims that children with measles can be treated at home with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, liquid zinc which has no scientific evidence behind it. 

Some social media users have suggested home-made treatments for the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus, including calls to avoid vaccination altogether. 

 “The vaccine is not killing our children; it is measles that is killing our children,” said Dr. Turner. 

“The people who chose to spread this myth will allow more children to die.”

If anyone, but especially children, contracts measles and their condition at home deteriorates they must receive medical care from a professional, she stressed.

“To delay or to obscure with treatment that does not work, I think, is conning people unfairly into not getting treatment," she said. 

“Any child who is very sick with measles needs to be seen by a healthcare professional. Staying at home and giving them vitamin A will not stop them dying.”

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