P.M. to Tui Atua: stop "politicising" measles tragedy

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has criticised the former Head of State and asked that he stopped politicising last year's measles epidemic, in which more than 80 people died. 

“I didn’t know that he was thinking about [the measles] in that manner and I’m certain people are encouraging him," Tuilaepa said. 

“I’m assuming [it is] that fat pretty reporter from the Samoa Observer that’s encouraging him."

Tuilaepa was speaking on his regular weekly media programme, after the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, renewed the call last week for the Government to launch a Commission of Inquiry into the measles epidemic.

“It is noticed that in matters which are trifling, you Tuilaepa are so ready to call a Commission of Inquiry,” Tui Atua said. 

“Why is there no Commission of Inquiry into the measles epidemic in Samoa where 81 children died and where there is compelling evidence about the lack of preparation?  

“The strong resistance to a Commission of Inquiry implies a fear of discovery that the truth will be exposed.”

Tui Atua's press conference, he alleged the Government had been negligent in responding to the alarm bells raised on Samoa’s low immunisation rates.

In response to questions from this newspaper during his radio programme, Tuilaepa said there were two separate Commission of Inquiries into the Ministry of Health in 2007 and 2018. 

“Commission of Inquiries [are] expensive,” he said. 

According to the Prime Minister, past Commissions of Inquiries were based on issues such as the re-merging of the Ministry of Health and the death of two babies in Savai'i following the fatal mixture of a routine Measles, Mumps and Rubella (M.M.R.) shot.

“And it did not help that the 'anti-vacciners' were encouraging members of the public not to vaccinate their children,” he said. 

He said after many months and the case concluded and the two nurses confessed to their crime.  “They tried to hide [...] their crime,” said the Prime Minister. 

The nurses, Tuilaepa was referring, Luse Emo Tauvale and Leutogi Te’o, were sentenced to five years in prison for negligence causing manslaughter over the death of two babies last year.

He said when the measles arrived in the country, precisely at the time mothers had no trust in the Ministry of Health and their vaccines. 

“And it was evident, there were mothers that came to my office informing they will take their children to get their immunisation shots overseas; they had no trust with the local clinics,” Tuilaepa said. 

Tuilaepa questioned what the point of a Commission of Inquiry into the measles epidemic would be.

He said there were two aspects worthy of exploring: how did measles get into the country and why such a high percentage of people die when it did. 

“Everyone knew the answer to that and maybe the old man is deaf and I doubt that he watched the T.V. about the public announcements on the vaccination campaigns," Tuilaepa said. 

The Prime Minister reminded there was a Government and business lockdown across the country while the health officials dispensed the vaccine.

“A young woman came for a meeting; she’s from New Zealand and that is how the measles got here,” he said.  

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