Card queues continue as students turned away

Two days after school officially started parents were still lining up at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole (T.T.M.) Hospital for proof-of-vaccination cards required to enroll their students on Tuesday morning.

Parents reported their children being turned away on the first day of the school year on Monday. 

On Tuesday, students from Avele College, Leififi College and Saint Mary’s College were seen accompanying their parents to secure their vaccination cards.

A mother of three from Vaitele, Tupou Sarona, told the Samoa Observer that her child was rejected from primary school for not having a vaccination card.

“The order to stop children who do not have proof of vaccination from attending school is very strict,” she said.

The 43-year-old said that they were not able to obtain cards last week because it was too crowded:

“We went to the Moto’otua last week so I can get a vaccination card for my son but it was such a long line and we waited for hours.

“My son’s school Principal strongly advised for us to get a card so we can register my child for school.

“I wish there was enough time, and an easier way to attain cards for the children.”

Despite parents complaining that records have been difficult or impossible to obtain, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) is not making any exceptions for students to attend school without proof of vaccination documents.

The M.E.S.C. Minister, Loau Keneti Sio, said that students must show their vaccination cards before going into classrooms without exceptions. 

Tuasivi District Hospital restocked on Tuesday after running out of vaccination cards last week with Savai'i's Safotu District Hospital. 

In a previous interview with the Ministry of Health’s Deputy Director General of Public Health Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, he said 2020 is too soon to fully realise the aims of the Infants Amendment Bill 2019.

The bill states that a certified copy of a complete, vaccination and immunisation record of a child from birth is a prerequisite for school enrollment. 

Tagaloa said the immunisation schedule for children doesn’t line up with new dates for school entry.

"At this stage they cannot really fulfill all the requirements as required by the new act to have every child fully immunized when they enter school," he said.

“It is because of the fact that in order for a child to have all its required immunization to be updated it takes up to seven months to catch up all the required immunization before you enter school.

“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.”

The Infants Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2019 makes 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.

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