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Jail anti-vaccination activists - P.M.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has cautioned members of the public against what he described as "foolish claims" behind alternative measles treatments and called for those diverting people away from hospital treatment to be imprisoned.

The alternative treatments includes traditional or other non-clinical treatment but also recent claims that  Kangen water could heal measles. In issuing the warning, Prime Minister Tuilaepa, who is also the Minister of Police, has urged the Police to find the people making these claims and put them behind bars.

“I urge those who are avoiding [getting vaccinated] and going to traditional healers that those treatment will not cure your measles,” Tuilaepa told the media during his weekly programme. 

He pointed out that even the Traditional Healers Association has notified people that come to them to get vaccinated.  

On social media, many people are urging desperate families that have children fallen ill to measles to use traditional medicine and seek traditional healers to cure them. 

“People are being misled with claims that there are traditional medicines that can cure it," he said. "The Police should find them and put them in Tanumalala prison to teach them a lesson.

“These foolish claims should not be done. Others say that the Kangen water can cure it. 

“The only thing that Kangen water can do is to remove the acid in water and it helps those that have gout…”

Tuilaepa said the only way to prevent the spread of measles is for people to get vaccinated. 

He made reference to children who have died from measles which reports confirmed they were all unvaccinated. 

He explained the increasing number of deaths from measles which 90 per cent of the cases are children under 4 are due to admitting the children 7 days late at the hospital. 

“The reports I have received is that some were admitted six to seven days later after they showed symptoms [measles],” he said

“It’s too late and it cannot be treated. 

“Another complication of this disease is pneumonia induced by measles and a lot are suffering from this pneumonia but the only protection is the vaccine.”  

Studies have shown that as many as 1 out of 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children. 

Tuilaepa reiterated the importance of getting immunised and the impact of unvaccinated children on others already being immunised. 

He said it wasn’t until the measles outbreak that people were fully aware of the importance of having their children immunised. 

As a way forward and ensuring that Samoa will not encounter another measles epidemic, the government will be tabling an urgent bill in December for compulsory immunisation.

The bill is expected to be effective in January in time for school to resume, said Tuilaepa. 

“It’s okay if you argue about your rights [not to get immunised] but your children should be kept away from schools and churches so they do not infect others ,” he explained. 

“Not getting your child immunised is a sign that you are willing to infect your own child with measles.

“And it is about time to implement laws to make vaccination compulsory and charge parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.”

The Prime Minister added if there is one important thing that came out of the measles epidemic is the fact that many people have been immunised through the mass vaccination state order. 

Statistics from the National Emergency Operation Centre recorded a total of 50,058 people being vaccinated since the activation of the mass vaccination campaign on 20 November. 

 From that number, 37,309 were vaccinated in Upolu and 12,759 in Savaii.

The legal basis for bringing the force of law to bear on anyone found to be "discouraging" or "preventing" people from receiving vaccination treatments was included in the November 15 declaration of a state of emergency.

The Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, last week warned that Police had been briefed to look out for complaints against anti-vaccination advocates. 

“Law enforcement is open to receiving notice, complaints, or evidence of any person or organisation, that is discouraging or going as far as preventing our community from vaccination," he said.

“Any person that actively discourages or prevents in any way members of the community from receiving their vaccination injection, is hereby warned, to cease immediately, and is similarly warned not to take any further action of that kind.”

Lemalu did not return a call on Friday.

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