Associate Minister urges parents not to be neglectful of immunisation

The Associate Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Salausa Dr. John Ah Ching has called on parents not to neglect their duties, and take their children to be immunised. 

Dr. Ah Ching made the plea during the Annual Teachers Conference, held at the TATTE Building earlier this week. 

He was a guest of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture and had been invited to speak on the Measles Epidemic and COVID-19. 

Salausa told the audience that the Measles Epidemic has been a reminder to keep school communities - inclusive of teachers, parents, school committees and the wider community - informed of the importance of being responsible and proactive about health and safety. 

He urged parents to vaccinate their children for their protection against harmful diseases.

During his presentation, he made reference to a photo in the newspaper that showed people queueing at Motootua Hospital looking for immunisation cards. 

Crowds of people, both young and old, have been assembling at the Main Hospital to seek proof-of-vaccination forms, which are now a requirement for school enrolment.

The new requirement came into effect with the passing of the Infants Amendment Bill 2019, stipulating that a certified copy of a complete vaccination and immunisation record for every child, from birth, is now a prerequisite for school enrolment. 

Failure to provide this record will result in the child not being accepted in a school (primary or secondary). 

Salausa said parents need to be more mindful of keeping immunisation records safe. He told of his time working in American Samoa, where he knew people from Samoa who had tried to enrol their children in school but were unable to do so without proof of immunisation.

"The law is strict there-no child is allowed to go to school if they don't have any immunisation papers. They had to return here to look for it."

He added that one of the big issues from the Measles Epidemic was immunisation. 

Salausa said it was possible that the absence of these infectious diseases in daily life may have contributed to the complacency towards immunisation. 

“Another major lesson was that years ago district nurses used to carry out immunisation in the community, but this later changed and instead it was left to parents to bring their children in of their own free will.

“And the coverage of immunisation rates, for Samoa was around 80 per cent or 90 per cent when we had Women’s community [Komiti Tumama] groups, compared to when we had the Measles Epidemic - the rate fell to 30 per cent. 

“That is why the measles spread - because few of our children were immunised or protected, which is why immunisation is necessary.”

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