Parental consent is a requirement prior to a health worker administering a child with the measles, mumps and rubella (M.M.R) vaccine.
So said the Ministry of Health’s Chief Executive Officer, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri during a press conference following the death of two toddlers in Savai’i last Friday.
The deaths have become a subject of a Police investigation, with the Ministry of Health bringing in World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) doctors to help determine what happened.
In the meantime, Leausa said there is an important issue that needs to be address. It involves the need for parents to give their consent before any treatment.
“It’s something that we have to address because now it has come to my knowledge that some parents do not consent with their children being vaccinated, yet their children are still being vaccinated. I also want to clarify that if the parent does not want their children to be vaccinated, then that is out of our control but it is not compulsory for the children to be vaccinated,” he said.
However, according to the C.E.O. vaccinations protect children from all kinds of diseases.
“If the parent does not consent, then the nurses or doctors have to respect that but they should not force the parent to have their children vaccinated.”
According to Leausa, all the vaccines undergo series of testing to ensure they are safe and effective.
“This is one of the pre-qualified vaccines goes through W.H.O. for their pre-qualification before they are released and we are procuring these vaccines from U.N.I.C.E.F. this is another U.N. grants. We are trying to find answers to this but if we do an autopsy post-mortem, we can sort of relate that to what’s happening and test this vial,” he added.
Health authorities currently have the vial – which was administered to the deceased infants – in their possession and will be at the center of their investigations.
“We are holding on to the vial because there should be three doses there and so that vial should also give us some clue of what exactly has happened. We are looking to have this investigation as soon as possible and we have W.H.O. working with us to get someone down to do it as soon as possible. As I said, this is a different case from all other cases. We have asked the nurses to step out of the scene because of the pressure and the people are also looking at them like they are criminals. So we need to counsel them and take them out from there because there is tension and we are also concerned for their safety.”
The Ministry of Health is doing its own investigations to ensure the vaccine is safe and to determine where the system failed leading to the babies’ deaths, added Leausa.
“The vaccine needs to be safe and is one of the basic principles of vaccine and these vaccines go through a lot of pre-qualifications phases before they are released. So we want to know where the system has faulted because we are relying on all these standards set by the W.H.O. on the vaccination process. So all M.M.R. vaccination are ceased until we feel it’s safe to start again and if we have to discard all of them then that’s what we will do.”