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Immunisation rule leaving parents baffled

Some parents say they are receiving mixed messages about a new legal requirement for children to have proof of immunisation before enrolling in school and struggling to obtain documents before school starts. 

The hall of the old maternity ward at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole (T.T.M.) Hospital was flooded with parents on Friday morning seeking their children's full immunisation records.

The records are advertised as being available at a cost of $40, a fee that is only levied on parents who have lost previous copies of immunisation books or their children's medical records. 

A mother of five, Mata Salele Fialupe from Malie, who was at the T.T.M. ward from 10am, said she had waited a long time only to be given nothing.

“There was a lot of complaints from the parents there due to the delay,” she said.

“They eventually gave out papers to fill out and leave [them behind] with our phone numbers saying they will get back to us.

Like many other parents, Mrs. Fialupe left with her paper because she could not recall when exactly her children got vaccinated.

Later in the day, she returned to the hospital expecting to pay the $160 needed to secure all four of her children's immunisation records.

But Mrs. Fialupe says she was told something else by a nurse on duty: that the children do not need immunisation records to be enrolled in school.

A nurse, who declined to be named because she was not authorised to speak to the media, relayed the same information to the Samoa Observer at the T.T.M. facility on Friday morning. 

The Ministry will instead go through the schools to run a check on the students enrolled themselves, the nurse said. 

This advice stands in direct contradiction to a public notice from the Ministry of Education, signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Afamasaga Dr. Keroline Fuata’I, warning parents enrolling their children “must” provide vaccination records to school.

“Any child with no vaccination record presented during enrollment should not be accepted or enrolled in the school for the academic year 2020,” the notice reads.

“Seek your child’s/children’s vaccination records from the Ministry of Health before enrollment for the new school year.”

The Minister of Education Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, has warned parents and Principals nationwide that all students trying to enroll this year without proof of vaccination will be refused.

A request for comment from the Ministry of Health's Director General, Leausa Take Naseri, was not returned by press time. 

Last year, the Infants Amendment Bill (No.2) 2019 was tabled and passed in Parliament under a note of urgency from the Head of State.

The law became effective on the 1st of January 2020 and required every child in Samoa to become vaccinations.

Failure to comply with the law can attract a fine of up to $10,000.

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