P.M. rejects call for measles inquiry

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has dismissed claims that the Government had failed the people of Samoa in the lead-up to the measles epidemic saying it is a "political call." 

He has brushed off calls for a full inquiry into what caused the crisis that has killed 63 people, with many more being hospitalised.

Tuilaepa said the views expressed by the Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, suggesting the entire system of Government had failed the people of Samoa, was typical of Olo putting a political slant on a tragic situation. 

“That is what politicians opposing this Government are saying,” argued the Prime Minister. 

“That is a political argument.” 

Earlier this week, the Salega M.P. said all three branches of Government had failed the people of Samoa in respect of the epidemic that has infected more than 4000 people over the past two months.

“We failed you Samoa,” said Olo. 

"I failed in doing my part to assist with the prevention and, in the end, the epidemic has taken the lives of our children."

“We owe it to the children of Samoa that have passed on and their loved ones whom to this day are in mourning. 

“There has to be an investigation as to where the lapse is and how the measles came into the country.” 

But Tuilaepa said an inquiry is not necessary because it was clear that the measles came from a visitor from New Zealand. 

“That is the reason why we got the measles because it was carried by a person from New Zealand,” he said. 

The Prime Minister disagreed with the view that the Government had left the vaccination campaign too late.

“What we decided to do is to inject all children first to ensure that the needs go hand in hand with the quantity of medicine that we have,” he said. 

“And as more vaccines arrive we extended the coverage to include the older people who have more immunity than the young ones. We didn’t leave it [too late].” 

He said Cabinet was aware of the impact that this week's two-day shutdown on commercial activity has had on the national economy and, for that reason, would be unlikely to order its continuation. 

The move was a first for Samoa, and Tuilaepa said all eyes from overseas were watching the Government's response to the crisis.

“It’s not common and other countries like America and Britain would not be able to do this because they have populations of multiple millions,” he said. 

“But it is easier for us because of the size of our population and we can declare the orders to contain the spread of the disease. We will still continue on with immunisation but it’s not as urgent as it was before. 

“The most vulnerable group has already received their vaccine and those that have not are mainly adults who have a strong immune system.”  

He added that if the number of those that haven’t been vaccinated is small it is not necessary to shutdown the Government to administer the few remaining.

For adults that are more than 60 years old, Tuilaepa cleared up misinformation that they cannot be vaccinated. 

He explained that while the priority age group of mainly young children has been immunised, the vaccine is now open to adults that are 60 years and older. 

In other countries people aged over 60 are sometimes considered low priority for vaccination because their childhood predates the advent of the now routine measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations. Many are therefore presumed to have contracted measles and have established viral immunity. 

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