4 Dec 2019

Shock as Samoan toddler denied MMR vaccine in Auckland

From Checkpoint, 5:10 pm on 4 December 2019

The family of a 15-month-old Samoan boy denied a measles booster by a South Auckland medical clinic on Monday say their son was given antibiotics for a scratch but denied a vaccine because he was not a New Zealand citizen.

Frederick Savaiinaea received his first vaccine three months ago in Samoa, but during a visit to New Zealand for a family celebration, the measles epidemic in Samoa worsened and his family wanted him to have his booster shot before he flew home.

Frederick's parents returned home early with his older siblings leaving him with his aunt and uncle Mark and Darlene Wendt, who took him to a clinic in South Auckland on Monday.

Despite being willing to pay, Mark told Checkpoint the family was denied because Frederick didn't have a New Zealand passport.

"They were very pleasant. They lady who was there said… she was unsure but she would go and check.

"She came back and said she wasn't able to do it because of the regulations in New Zealand and because he wasn't immunised initially in New Zealand, and they couldn't they couldn't help us because of his status as well, not being a New Zealand citizen."

Mr Wendt said he was shocked.

"It's kind of contradicting that you're in a country that's offering a lot of support to Samoa by way of medical help, and you've got a citizen of Samoa who's wanting some form of assistance.

"It's great to get all the aid and the assistance we can from foreign countries and we appreciate that.

"The irony in it is Frederick is a Samoan citizen was visiting New Zealand, and we were aware of the situation here in Samoa. Rather than coming back and piling up at the hospital or any of these centres that are doing the vaccinations, why don't we just get it done in New Zealand, and if it's at a cost, so be it."

Upon arriving back in Apia, Mr Wendt said they had Frederick wearing a face mask and their car had been cleaned to ensure it was safe.

"We came straight out, came home, and this is where he's been ever since."

He said now they will wait until the mass vaccination campaign arrives at their home to give Frederick his immunisation boost.

How the mass vaccination campaign will happen

On Thursday and Friday Samoa will be shut down so mobile medical teams can visit people who have not been vaccinated to immunise them at home.

Businesses and transport will be shut. The process of vaccinating is like "something out of the book of Exodus," Checkpoint reporter Alex Perrottet says.

Citizens must stay at home, and if someone is in a home is not vaccinated, a red cloth or garment must be visible at the front of the property, to alert the mobile vaccination team.

Auckland clinic apologises for denying Samoan toddler immunisation

On Wednesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ it was "outrageous" that Frederick had been denied the vaccination, and she would speak to the Health Minister.

The clinical director of Procare – the primary health organisation that oversees the clinic that denied Frederick the vaccination – apologised that the toddler was not given the shot.

Dr Allan Moffitt told Checkpoint the clinic had understood because Frederick was not eligible for normal health services that he did not qualify for immunisation.

"But in fact the immunisation schedule has always been clear about this, that non-New Zealanders qualify for immunisation & [under-18s] for free vaccinations. They gave the dad the wrong advice."

He said all the organisations clinics have been told they should not be turning away people seeking MMR vaccinations before travelling to high-risk areas.

"I really want to apologise, it was really unfortunate they were not given the vaccine before they left the country, that is what should have happened."