Immunisation records fee scrapped, 'unauthorised'

A $40 tala fee for parents seeking their children's immunisation records was mistakenly imposed by staff and will not go ahead, the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) said on Monday. 

The $40 fee that had been widely opposed by the public had been imposed by staff members without the knowledge of management, the Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri.

"The Ministry of Health had not authorized the $40.00 tala fee and was also not aware that staff had unilaterally impose the fee to acquire the vaccination records for school enrolment,"  the Ministry said in a statement.

"The staff members involved did not take into account that the old law governing the N.H.S. operations as a [state-owned enterprise] was already voided".

Leausa had directed staff to stop collecting the fees, which had been imposed on parents seeking to comply with new school enrollment procedures, upon learning of them on Friday, the statement said. 

The fees dated back to the old National Health Service, the forerunner to today's Ministry and were meant to have been imposed only on parents emigrating from the country, the statement said. 

He said staff failed to ask the authorities before continuing with the old practice of charging the public $40 for full vaccination records.

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Leausa said that he was disappointed the media did not give them a chance to address concerns when the issue was reported last week. 

The Samoa Observer had previously called both Leausa and the Ministry's Deputy Director, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, directly on their private mobile phone numbers on Friday but those calls were not returned. 

Calls to the Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, were also not returned a day later.

The misstep comes two days after the the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, said charging parents the fees was "stupid".

"Such charges are usually endorsed first by the Ministry of Finance where the Revenue Board sits before Cabinet gives approval for implementation," the Ministry's statement said. 

"The children’s immunisation and verification record is free.

"This aligns to the long-standing Government policy where children under 15 years old are afforded free health care services from consultations, to admissions and medications."

Last week, some parents told the Samoa Observer they had been receiving mixed messages and facing long delays relating to a new legal requirement for children to have proof of immunisation before enrolling in school and struggling to obtain documents before school starts. 

Under the Infants Amendment Bill (No.2) 2019, it is illegal to enroll a child in schools without proof that they are currently immunised. Failure to comply with the law can attract a fine of up to $10,000.

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