Health confusion over who issues stop order on infants’ vaccinations

Samoa’s National Hospital at Moto’otua

By Rula Su’a – Vaai

APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2018: An obvious confusion over who issues stop orders for infants’ vaccinations came before the Commission of Inquiry currently investigating the health process and policies for MMR vaccinations following the death of two babies in Savai’i last July.

The Ministry of Health officials who appeared before the Commission this morning said they did not know who ordered a stop order for all infant vaccination under the Expanded Program of Immunization – EPI.

MOH Assistant Chief Executive Officer for Nursing, Fuatai Taulealo Maiava was responding to a question from Commission member Lealai’auloto Lia’i Si’itia, on which order to listen to whether from the Ministry of Health – MOH or the National Health Services – NHS.

The Commission later heard another version where officials of the Ministry of Health said they just found out last week, that the National Health Services had issued a stop order on all infant vaccines administered under the EPI program.

EPI programs include all immunized injections new all new born babies until age 5 years old.

According to Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thompson, the Ministry only issued a nationwide stop order on the use of MMR1 vaccine but not on the whole EPI program.

The Ministry of Health was separated from the National Health Services over ten years ago and are now in the process of merging them again into one entity

Dr. Thompson also expressed his concern that he has been notified by hospital’s Paediatric Ward about the growing number of babies reported to the hospital suffering from “whooping cough.”

Whooping cough according to Dr. Thompson is not included in the stop order that the Ministry of Health issued [following the death of the two babies].

“Whooping Cough or Tale Vivini is one of the vaccines administered under the EPI program.”

Lealai’auloto, who is a Senior Nurse, reminded the health officials that differing orders from the two health entities will have a big impact on the public, especially at the time that the Ministry is trying to restore public confidence in the vaccination program.

In response, Fuatai Maiava said the issue of differing orders from the two health entities can be hard to believe.

“It is hard to believe, but the MOH’s stand is that only MMR vaccine was suspended pending investigations,” she told the Commission.

“But weeks later, we learnt that the whole EPI program was ceased, and we do not know whether it was the NHS who stopped it, because we were told that the Minister issued the stop notice, but the Minister said he did not issue such a stop order.”

“I believe that at such time when tragedy happened, anyone can go ahead with an idea without any basis.”

Chairman Tuiloma Neroni Slade then reminds the importance of evidence gathered to assist with their investigation.

“The country is in a very sensitive position – afaina finagalo o le atunu’u. It is therefore of no comfort or what appears to be confusion on fundamental matters like suspending of such a program.”

The Commission of Inquiry continues.