A senior Samoan nurse has been charged with manslaughter in relation to the deaths of two one-year-old babies who died soon after receiving the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine at Safotu district hospital in Savaii last month.
She has also reportedly been charged with perverting the course of justice and negligence causing death.
Samoa’s Attorney General Lemalu Herman Retzlaff released a statement a week ago today stating that the nurse was charged by police on August 4.
Lemalu said the nurse was scheduled to appear in court yesterday where the charges would be made public.
However, Samoan Observer journalist Deidre Tautua-Fanene has reported that the matter did not get called in court yesterday, although it was on the court diary. She reports that a court official has advised that the matter has been referred to the Supreme Court.
The nurse, who has since been released on bail, is scheduled to appear in the Supreme Court in Apia on August 27.
Meanwhile, the coronial inquest into the deaths of one-year-old Lannah Callysta Samuelu and one-year-old Lameko Siu has now been adjourned for the second time.
Newsline Samoa has reported that the Inquest has now been adjourned to September 12. The police investigation is ongoing.
An autopsy was carried out on the infants by Australian experts with specimens being tested in Australia. Those lab test results were being delivered direct to the Attorney General’s Office. That report may have already been received by the Attorney General. Those findings will form part of the medical investigation and evidence at the Inquest.
The remaining vaccine doses and vials left at Safotu district hospital on July 6, the day that the children died, are also being tested.
Samoa’s Ministry of Health is leading the investigation into the medical investigation. Director-General and CEO of the Ministry Dr Take Naseri initially said in Samoa a few weeks ago that the medical investigation was on hold until the police investigation was concluded. If the CEO’s response was correct, the recent arrest and charges laid against the nurse may suggest that more information has come to light in both the medical and police investigations.
The Prime Minister’s Office has said that the Commission of Inquiry is also conducting a medical investigation into the deaths of the two infants. This is happening alongside the Ministry of Health’s own medical investigation. The Commission is tasked with recommendations which will serve as guidelines and reforms to the procedures to ensure that the unfortunate incident will not be repeated, they said.
The Commission of Inquiry is separate from the medical and criminal investigations undertaken by the respective authorities.
The Commission is tasked with recommendations which will serve as guidelines and reforms to the procedures to ensure that the unfortunate incident will not be repeated.
As reported previously, the World Health Organisation’s Head for Samoa Dr Rasul Baghirov said that the batch of MMR vaccine used by Samoa was also distributed to nine other countries. It has been in use in Samoa for the last year and a half, but Samoa is the only country where there has been a serious report.
The Samoan government has suspended the MMR vaccination programme across the country, formally recalling all remaining MMR vaccine batches, pending the outcome of the investigations.