Specialists head to Samoa for vaccination deaths medical inquiry


By Staff Reporters

APIA, SAMOA – THURSDAY 12 JULY 2018: A forensic pathologist and another expert from the World Health Organisation will assist the investigation into the deaths of two toddlers at the Safotu Hospital, Savai’i last Friday.

A representative from the UNICEF is also heading to Samoa along with medical specialists in children’s vaccination from New Zealand to assist the Minister of Health with its investigation.

The two 12 months old died within minutes after receiving their MMR vaccinations.

The tragedy has received worldwide news coverage by the mainstream media outlets in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

The Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Toleafoa Take Naseri is leading the medical inquiry.

“The circumstances leading to the unfortunate loss to the grieving families are inconceivable. It’s difficult and impossible to accept. It is sadly regretted by myself and the entire Health Sector,” said the Director General in a widely distributed video message.

“At this time of sadness, we pray that the Lord Almighty will comfort the parents, their families and relatives for their loss.  And we want to reassure them that the inquiries should provide closure.”

Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Toleafoa Take Naseri

Since the incident, the Ministry of Health has recalled the MMR drugs for investigation and has halted the vaccination program until the inquiries completed. He has also requested a forensic autopsy on the two babies, as the deaths are also being investigated by police.

“We will investigate the cause and will take the appropriate actions to ensure that the lives of Samoan children will not be compromised in the future,” said Leausa.

While awaiting the outcome of the medical inquiry, Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland, told TVOne News in New Zealand that this type of case is exceedingly rare.

Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland

“Most children in the world receive this vaccine or similar vaccines to this.”

“We have safety data on the vaccine; we understand the effects really well. This type of case is exceedingly rare,” she said.

Furthermore, she said, child mortality has gone down in many countries that use these vaccines.

“Every country has a vaccine program that has been demonstrated to be very safe,” she added. “At the moment we need to understand what’s happened so we can work out strategies to ensure it doesn’t happen again. There’s a lot we don’t know about (the deaths).”