The Ministry of Health has emphasised the safety of Samoa’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and childhood vaccines as an investigation into the death of a 4-month old baby girl continues.
The baby girl, one of twins, died last Saturday 29 April 2023, after the medical team at the Emergency Department of the Motootua National Hospital were unable to resuscitate her.
Just six hours earlier, the deceased infant and her twin were at Motootua Hospital receiving their standard 14-week immunization shots. According to Police, the baby’s parents say they noticed acute diarrhea about three hours after the shot was administered.
In a press statement issued on Thursday 4 May 2023, the Ministry of Health gives its assurance of the safety of Samoa’s EPI programme and children’s vaccinations.
According to the statement, “preliminary investigations conducted by Senior Ministry of Health Officials confirms no negligence on the part of the hospital.
“It has been confirmed that the nurses who administered the vaccines had followed all the standard procedures accordingly in the care, storage and administration of the vaccines,” states MOH.
“Furthermore, other infants who were vaccinated from the same batch of vaccines, including the deceased baby’s twin, have not had any adverse reactions or any other medical concerns.”
MOH extend its heartfelt and deepest condolences to the family of the 4-month old twin and reiterates they are following up closely with families, “out of an abundance of care and caution and to provide needed support.”
The Ministry says there is a system in place to monitor, investigate, clarify, and report on whether an unfortunate event such as this is due to vaccination or not, given that the baby was vaccinated earlier that same day.
“This system includes an internal process and an external formal investigation by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, which is being planned.”
In terms of the baby girl being brought back to the ED, the Ministry insists, “despite swift action by the medical team, including resuscitation, the baby unfortunately passed away.”
“We understand that the public may be concerned as to the cause of the unfortunate loss of life 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 of0 our people and to prevent incidents like the unfortunate deaths of the two infants in 2018.
The Ministry reiterate that nearly 350,000 vaccinations for COVID-19 have been safely administered and more than 500,000 childhood vaccinations have also been safely administered since 2019 in Samoa. We reaffirm 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.
“WHO approved vaccines go through robust clinical trials and are only approved for use in the wider population after their safety and efficacy have been rigourously tested.
“The Ministry will continue its vaccination programme and strongly urges the public to bring all children for vaccination as per the vaccination schedule outlined in the Child Health Book. This is especially important given the threat of the outbreak in American Samoa.
The Ministry will be supporting and cooperating with the investigating teams from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, who will determine whether this unfortunate event is related to the vaccine or coincidental in nature. The public will be updated regularly as the investigation continues. The case has also been referred to the coroner.