Samoa orders full investigation after two baby deaths
Apia, SAMOA — Samoa has issued an immediate recall of the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) following the deaths of two infants who reportedly passed away just hours after receiving their shots.
It’s reported by ABC Pacific Beat that the two children, boy and girl, were both aged about 12 months, were not related, came from different communities and were vaccinated on Friday using the same batch of the MMR vaccine. The incident happened at the Safotu District Hospital on the island of Savai'i.
In a statement, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele expressed condolences to the children's families while also calling for a full inquiry.
"There are already processes that will determine if negligence is a factor," Tuilaepa said. "And if so, rest assured those processes will be implemented to the letter to ensure that such a tragedy will not be repeated and those responsible will be made to answer."
Health officials said testing was underway to see if the vaccine was responsible, and it has been recalled nation/ islandwide as a precautionary measure.
The Government has called on the World Health Organization (WHO) for assistance.
Dr. Rasul Baghirov, the WHO's Samoa Representative, told the ABC's Pacific Beat program the situation was serious, but it was too early to determine exactly what caused the deaths.
"These deaths are a tragedy and the Government is committed to understanding exactly what happened, for the families of those children, but also to ensure the ongoing safety of the immunization program," Dr. Baghirov said.
He said the investigation would examine the vaccine itself, the injecting equipment and the storage arrangements for the vaccine. The training and conduct of staff would also be looked at, as well as the medical history of the infants' families.
An autopsy team from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne has also arrived in Samoa to assist the investigation.
Severe vaccine reaction is ’very, very rare' Dr. Baghirov said, adding that there have been no other reported cases of children dying after being vaccinated using the batch supplied to Samoa.
The vaccines were from India, were safety checked by the WHO and supplied by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Debate around immunization — to vaccinate or not — focuses on 'vaccine refusers' but experts say we cannot ignore the other reasons children miss out on vaccines.
"The MMR immunization is the best way to reduce a child's risk of getting these highly infectious diseases," Dr. Baghirov said. "It has been used around the world for many years, providing more than two billion children with protection against these diseases.