26 Mar 2019

Expert reassures Samoans MMR vaccinations are 'very safe'

2:10 pm on 26 March 2019

The headline and part of this story have been corrected since it was first published. Dr Helen Petousis-Harris has clarified to RNZ Pacific that she would describe the vaccine as “very safe” and the story has been amended to reflect this.

A vaccination expert is reassuring Samoan families concerned about measles immunisations that vaccines are safe and warns against listening to unqualified speakers preying on their fears and wallets.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine, MMR,

Photo: 123RF

The full outcome of an inquiry into the deaths of two children following MMR vaccinations in Samoa last year is still unknown and a court case is ongoing.

A vaccinologist at the University of Auckland, Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, said measles was an extremely infectious disease and preventative vaccines were very safe.

She said the Samoan community had likely lost some trust in health professionals after last year's events that appear to involve human error but news of a visit to Samoa by speakers with anti-vaccine views was a public health threat.

"Now somebody who really has no expertise in health, or certainly not on vaccines, who makes money out of doing these talking tours, is going to talk with this community who are exceptionally vulnerable. So I think it's predatory."

Dr Petousis-Harris said all care was being taken to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the immunisation programme and with international measles outbreaks currently growing, vaccination was really important to protect children's lives.

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