New day, new week. Be proactive and unite

It is a new day and a new week, giving everyone another opportunity to get back on track on unfinished business, and probably the chance to refocus energies on addressing a crisis that has already claimed lives. 

A lot has been said in the last week on the measles epidemic, which continues to threaten families and communities in the country, with recent figures from the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) pointing to 700-plus suspected and 48 confirmed cases.

The Government’s declaration of a state of emergency late last Friday through the Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers should boost the interventions by the M.O.H. to address the growing health crisis.

Full details of the state of emergency orders were published in the November 17, 2019 Sunday Samoan. The orders include compulsory vaccinations, a crackdown on public gatherings, the involvement of Police to keep the peace and provide support where needed, the shutdown of all schools including universities, and the indefinite deferral of school examinations which were scheduled for this week.

While there has been mixed reaction to the declaration of the state of emergency in some quarters when it was announced late Friday, we believe this is an opportune time for families to take heed and get your children vaccinated. 

Even organisations and bodies within the public and private sectors should begin discussions on plans to get their staff vaccinated – in consultation with the local authorities including the M.O.H.– to ensure a convenient time is chosen so as to avoid being in the way of more serious high risk cases.

The authorities – according to the state of emergency orders that were issued on Saturday – will advise the public of a new nationwide vaccination programme on Monday, November 18. It is very important for members of the public to monitor the media for the dates of vaccination programmes and the different locations. 

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Some members of the public have asked this newspaper for details of the vaccination programme and whether it is important to attend. Under the state of emergency orders, vaccinations are “now a mandatory legal requirement for all of Samoa”, that is people who have not had the MMR vaccination are now compelled by law to undergo the medical procedure. Failure or refusal to do so would be considered to be in breach of Article 106 of the Samoan Constitution.

We look forward to the dissemination of information on the new vaccination programme, which according to the state of emergency orders is scheduled to be released on Monday. We hope the MOH will be able to use mainstream media and social media platforms, in order to have maximum impact in terms of publicity.

Last weekend the Acting PM and Health Minister slammed this newspaper over what she described as a “personal attack” against her and defamation of her character, over a story that revealed her absence from the country at the height of the measles epidemic.

“For the record, my absence reaffirms the confidence and respect that I hold for the Director General of Health and Management, not to forget our highly qualified competent health professionals, who are working tirelessly day and night to provide health services needed by the whole of Samoa,” she said in a statement.

“That confidence is further cemented with the endorsement from the Prime Minister who served as Acting Minister of Health in my absence and also the entire Cabinet.”

We too respect and acknowledge the work of the MOH staff and the challenging conditions that they are working under to save lives, while mindful of other related-issues such as the July 2018 deaths of the two infants in Savai’i, which saw a moratorium being imposed on the administration of the MMR vaccine in Samoa.

And we also have a responsibility to the people of this nation – the same people and constituencies that the political leaders of this country were given the mandate to govern – to continue to promote their welfare and to be their voice in times of difficulties such as this health crisis. It would be remiss of this newspaper – with a 41-year history of journalism excellence – to accept the status quo and not ask the questions that matter.

At the end of the day, we all want the same outcomes for the people of this nation, so let’s work together to address a growing crisis that needs all hands-on-deck.

Have a lovely Monday Samoa and God bless.

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