As school starts, silence on vaccine document shortage
As the new school year begins, the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) has not addressed the issue of a shortage of proof-of-vaccination cards now required for school enrollment.
A press statement released last Saturday by the M.E.S.C. did not address reports last week week that Savai'i's Tuasivi and Safotu District Hospitals had run out of the vaccination cards which have become a legal prerequisite for enrollment in school.
A reporter from the Samoa Observer had attempted to obtain a vaccination card from the hospitals but was unsuccessful last week. New supplies were not expected to reach Savai'i until Monday, or the beginning of the school year, Hospital staff said.
The Minister for M.E.S.C., Loau Keneti Sio, said that he would discuss the matter with his Chief Executive Officer, Afamasaga Dr. Karoline Fuata'i, saying a way could be found to solve the problem.
But no subsequent statements have been made about how the problem would be addressed.
The media release by M.E.S.C. on Saturday said that the public was well-informed the new Infants Amendment Act (no. 2) 2019 with regards to school registrations through awareness programs. It did not acknowledge any reported shortages of documentation.
“Evidence of immunisation is now a compulsory requirement for all school children for enrolment in any school,” the media release said.
The release said the agency would be working closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure the successful implementation of the new legislation.
“Everyone is expected to comply with the Infants Amendment Act (no. 2) 2019, as clearly stated in the various media releases," the statement said.
“M.E.S.C. is urging all parents to ensure their children present their Immunisation Cards and Birth Certificates for official registration when they enroll.
“The Year 8 Samoa Primary Education Certificate of Achievement (S.P.E.C.A.) results and the Year 4 & 6 S.P.E.L.L. diagnostic tests results are due to be released very soon to each school.”
The statement added that all school Principals and teachers had resumed normal duties on Wednesday January 15, to begin preparing classrooms and to take registrations.
“Awareness programs for school committees and Principals took place this week reminding them of their critical roles and responsibilities," the statement said.
“The M.E.S.C. management and staff wish all students, teachers and parents the very best for this school year.”
On the sidelines of a seminar hosted by M.E.S.C. last Friday, the Deputy Director of Public Health, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, said that, “at this stage we cannot really fulfill all the requirements as required by the new Act [Infants Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2019] to have every child fully immunised when they enter school."
The Infants Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2019 was passed into law last month and made the provision of a comprehensive vaccination record a mandatory requirement for school enrollment. Principals found to have enrolled children without complete vaccination records would face fines of up to $10,000.
“In order for a child to have all its required immunisation to be updated it takes up to seven months to catch up [on] all the required immunisation[s]," Tagaloa said.
“The immunisation is never complete, there are vaccines that are given at certain ages and so we are working on trying to catch up with that.”
Tagaloa added that after discussions with the M.E.S.C. they have proposed to allow the enrollment of children who have proof that they have received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as a stopgap measure, while they catch up on outstanding injections.
“A large proportion of children have incomplete vaccination," he said.
It remains unclear what measures will be in place for children who are yet to receive any immunisation records.
The following is the press statement released by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture during the weekend. It is printed in full:
BEGINNING OF ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR
The Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (MESC) is optimistic for a smooth beginning of the new school year 2020.
With awareness programs initiated by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with MESC, the public especially parents are now well-informed of the new Infants Amendment Act (no. 2) 2019 with regards to school registrations. Evidence of immunisation is now a compulsory requirement for all school children for enrolment in any school. MESC and MOH are working together to ensure the successful implementation of this in schools this year. This was also reminded in the MESC Public Notice on the 14th of January, 2020.
Everyone is expected to comply with the Infants Amendment Act (no. 2) 2019, as clearly stated in the various media releases. MESC is urging all parents to ensure their children present their Immunisation Cards and Birth Certificates for official registration when they enrol.
The Year 8 SPECA results and the Year 4 & 6 SPELL diagnostic tests results are due to be released very soon to each school. The SSLC provisional results have been released to schools. Students are also getting their School Examination Certificates for both secondary and primary levels as per the usual practice each year.
All school Principals and teachers resumed their normal duties on Wednesday 15th January 2020, to carry out their compound and classroom clean up and ensure registrations are carried out timely and teaching starts uninterrupted.
Awareness programs for School Committees and principals took place this week (23-24/01/20) reminding them of their critical roles and responsibilities in School management, One government Grant and especially with the new requirements of the Infants Amendment Act (no. 2) 2019.
The MESC management and staff wish all students, teachers and parents the very best for this school year.