10 Jul 2018

Confidence in Samoa health system dives after infant deaths

5:49 pm on 10 July 2018

Public confidence in Samoa's public health system is at an all-time low after two infants died at the same hospital after receiving vaccinations during the same period of time.

Measles, MMR (file photo)

Measles, MMR (file photo) Photo: 123RF

A post mortem has been ordered to find the cause of the deaths of the two babies who died after receiving the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine.

The Ministry of Health is conducting an internal inquiry, and the families of the infants have asked police to investigate what happened at Safotu Hospital on Savaii island.

RNZ correspondent Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia said health officials have stopped vaccinations in the interim, as well as relocate the staff.

But he said many locals were worried.

"It really shocks the whole nation because they are two 12-month-old babies, and it is very shocking, and even the PM in his statement he issued with his condolences to the parents of the babies and also calling for an inquiry into what went wrong."

The Samoa government has recalled all batches of the vaccine as a precaution.

Samoa's Prime Minister is among many who have sent their condolences to the families of thechildren, saying it's important to find out why.

Staff involved in the incident have also been relocated for their own safety.

A post mortem of the babies has been ordered as part of ongoing investigations.

However, Doctor Petousis-Harris said MMR was extremely safe and there were no concerns for New Zealand.

Dr Petousis-Harris said the vaccine has been used effectively in New Zealand and around the world for decades.

"It's really disppointing when these things happen because they can initiate a panic," Dr Petousis-Harris said.

"We want to reassure people vaccines are incredibly safe, we've got lots of great data, it has never happened in New Zealand and it's very unlikely to happen," she said.

She said it was no reason for people to stop using the vaccine here, as the risk of mumps, measles and rubella was much higher.

"Almost every child in the world receives an MMR vaccine or similar, everywhere these vaccines have been used child mortality has gone down," she said.

Her view is shared by the Ministry of Health who said they would not be recalling the vaccine.

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