Samoa’s Attorney General Lemalu Herman Retzlaff has issued a statement this evening reporting that one of the nurses involved with the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination of two babies who died in Savaii a month ago, has been charged by police.
No information as yet on what the charges are, however, the Attorney General said the charges will be made public next week.
However, the parents – from two separate families – laid a police complaint against the nurses and hospital staff at Safotu, soon after the deaths.Their complaint is said to have triggered the police’s criminal investigation into the sudden deaths.
Attorney General Lemalu said the decision to charge the nurse was supported by advice and confirmed by Police. He said in the statement that the investigations are still active and ongoing.The nurse will appear in court next week.
Meanwhile, the nurses who administered the MMR vaccine to both infants have been temporarily suspended from their positions at Safotu District Hospital, pending the outcome of the police investigation.
There are now three separate investigations into the deaths of the infants: a medical investigation by the Ministry of Health which itself is the subject of a Commission of Inquiry and a scathing report on its culture; the police investigation which has now charged a nurse; and a three person Commission of Inquiry announced a fortnight ago.
Former Attorney General of the Government of Samoa Tuiloma Neroni Slade heads the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Ministry of Health’s procedures for administering the MMR vaccine injections. It will also look into alleged procedural discrepancies relating to the deaths of the two young children.
Tuiloma, a former head of the Pacific Islands Forum, is joined by health professionals Leo’o Tautalatasi Dr. John Adams and Lilia Si’itia, who has years of experience in the nursing profession with the Ministry of Health. The Commission reportedly had one week to complete its inquiries and table findings and recommendations to Cabinet.
The Prime Minister’s Office said today that 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.
The World Health Organisation’s Head for Samoa Dr Rasul Baghirov, who also represents WHO in Niue, Tokelau, Cook Islands and American Samoa, said that the batch of MMR vaccine used by Samoa was also distributed to nine other countries. It was in use in Samoa for the last year and a half and Samoa is the only country where there has been a serious report.
The Samoan government has since suspended the MMR vaccination programme across the country, formally recalling all MMR vaccine batches, pending the outcome of the investigations.