4 May 2023, Apia Samoa. A 14-week old baby girl, one of twins, died at Motootua National Hospital last Saturday 29 April 2023, after the medical team at the Emergency Department were unable to resuscitate her.
Just six hours earlier, the baby and her parents were at Motootua Hospital for the twins’ immunizations.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Health this morning does not confirm which immunization was being administered, except to say that it was “vaccination due at 14 weeks old, as per the immunization schedule.”
According to the MOH release, the baby was brought back to the ED (emergency department) six hours later “in critical condition”.
In an interview with Assistant Police Commissioner Papalii Monalisa Tiai-Keti, the baby’s parents have stated that they noticed symptoms of acute diarrhea about three hours after they had returned home from the hospital following the immunization injection.
“The parents say they then rushed their baby girl back to the hospital, where she unfortunately, passed away,” said Papalii.
“O le tala a matua na ma’ea ona fai le tui ona agai lea i le fale. Pe tusa o le 3 itula talu ona uma na fai le tui ae va’aia loa le diarrhea o le pepe teine, ma toe faanatinati ifo ai loa i le falemai.”
According to the MOH Statement, “the baby unfortunately passed away despite swift action by the medical team, including resuscitation.
Health Director Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma has been asked to respond the allegations of negligence at casual responses from MOH when the baby was taken back to the ED.
The Ministry of Health say they are currently investigating the death of the 14-week old twin, and wish to reiterate that other infants who were vaccinated from the same batch of vaccines, including the baby girl’s twin, “have not had any adverse reaction or been brought to the hospital for treatment or any other medical concerns”.
The Ministry has also stated that nurses who administered the vaccines, “had followed all the standard procedures accordingly in the care, storage and administration of the vaccines.”
“We understand that the public may be concerned as to the cause of the unfortunate loss of life of this infant. We wish to reassure the public that the Ministry is investigating this matter and continues to ensure the proper care, storage and administration of vaccines through intensive training, monitoring and evaluation to ensure the safety of our people and prevents incidents like the unfortunate deaths of the two infants in 2018.”
The Ministry statement refers to the deaths of two infants, both aged one, who died minutes after receiving an MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination at Safotu Hospital, in Savaii, in July 2018. Samoa halted all immunizations for babies during the investigation and court case that followed – a decision that contributed immensely to the low national rates of immunization when the measles pandemic hit Samoa in 2019. The brunt of the Ministry’s failure was borne by two nurses who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for mixing the wrong liquid with the MMR vaccines.
“Every vial of the vaccine should be mixed with one vial of dilutant, but the vaccine was mixed with something else,” then Director General of Health Leausa Dr Take Naseri had said after the nurses pleaded guilty.
In today’s public statement, the Ministry of Health reiterates that nearly 350,000 vaccinations for COVID-19 and more than 500,000 childhood vaccinations have been safely administered in Samoa since 2019.
“We affirm the safety and effectiveness of these WHO approved vaccines used in the Ministry’s immunization programme which have been used for many decades world-wide.”
Health Director General Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma told Samoa Global News that further information will be provided to the public as the MOH investigation continues. The Samoa Police are conducting their own investigation and the Coroner has been informed.