Radio New Zealand and the Samoan Observer have reported that nurses Luse Emo Tauvale and Leutogi Te’o both entered not guilty pleas to charges of manslaughter, conspiracy to defeat the course of justice and negligence when they appeared in the Supreme Court in Apia on September 3.
The charges relate to the deaths of two one-year-old infants who died in July after receiving the MMR vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella. The two nurses remain on bail with a date set for a Supreme Court hearing in mid-January.
Meanwhile the three-person Commission of Inquiry set up by the Samoan government to investigate the tragic deaths is due to start hearing submissions on September 10.
The inquiry is chaired by judge Tuiloma Neroni Slade who is supported by medical practitioner Leo’o Dr John Adams and Samoa Family Health Association executive director Lealaiauloto Liai Iosefa-Siitia.
The public inquiry is due to hear submissions from Samoa’s Ministry of Health, National Health Services, the Samoa Registered Nurses’ Association, Samoa School of Nursing and the Samoa Medical Association
The government published the terms of reference for the inquiry on Sunday, which is to investigate the causes of the two babies’ deaths following receiving their MMR vaccination and will cover:
- Samoa’s Ministry of Health standards and procedures — and those of the district hospital where the babies were vaccinated — for the administration of MMR vaccinations
- the procedure, including consent, relating to the administration of the MMR vaccination to the second baby who died
- whether there were discrepancies in the administration of the MMR vaccinations to the two babies in question.
University of Auckland vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said shortly after the tragic deaths that such events were rare and the two main reasons they occurred were medical error — where the vaccine was prepared incorrectly and the wrong substance was injected — or contamination of the vaccine due to leaving it at room temperature for a long period of time.