Nurse charged over Samoan baby MMR vaccination death

  • 08/08/2018

One of the nurses involved in the MMR vaccination of two babies who passed away in Samoa has been charged.  

The woman was charged on Saturday and will appear in court next Tuesday, when the charges will be confirmed publicly, according to a statement from Samoa's Attorney-General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff. 

He said the file was "referred to this office for advice last week, after swift and hard-working investigations by the CID section of the Ministry of Police both in Apia and Savai'i, which is to be commended".

He added: "The decision to charge was thereafter supported by advice, and it is also confirmed by police that investigations are still active and on-going."

The one-year-olds were both given the vaccine on July 6 at Safotu Hospital on the island of Savai'i, and died within minutes. All vials of the vaccine were seized and the Samoan government suspended its nationwide vaccine programme while an investigation was carried out.

As a precautionary move, the Cook Islands suspended its own MMR programme because the country gets its vaccine from the same supplier as Samoa.

That suspension has since been lifted, Cook Islands Health Secretary Josephine Aumea Herman said, as the government was told the vaccine it used was not the same product that was used on the children in Samoa.

The nurses who vaccinated the two Samoan children were stood down, but told officials they had followed proper procedure.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Dr Sailele Malielegaoi said an inquiry would "determine if negligence was a factor". 

A specialist forensic expert was called in to undertake an autopsy on the bodies of both babies to help understand what happened.