The Samoan Government has ordered all of the nation’s measles, mumps and rubella vaccines to be seized after two toddlers died on Friday.

The two, both one-year-old, died minutes after receiving the vaccines at Safotu Hospital in Savaii.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi has launched a full inquiry into the deaths.

“There are already processes that will determine if negligence is a factor. And if so, rest assured those processes will be implemented to the letter to ensure that such a tragedy will not be repeated and those responsible will be made to answer.”

University of Auckland vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said the vaccines had a long track record of safety.

“There has never been a death associated with the administration of this vaccine in New Zealand.

She said details about the Samoan deaths were still sketchy and it was too early to speculate what had happened.

“Rarely a tragic event such as this occurs. There are two main reasons why something like this might happen.”

She said that included medical error — where the vaccine is prepared incorrectly and the wrong substance is injected — or contamination of the vaccine due to leaving it at room temperature for a long period of time.

However, more information was needed, she said.

“We first need to understand what happened, and then what can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

She said almost every child in the world receives an MMR vaccine, or similar.

“Everywhere these vaccines have been used child mortality has gone down.”

The Samoan Observer reported the families of the toddlers had filed criminal complaints against the Suvaii clinic.

Ministry of Health chief executive Dr Leausa Toleafoa Take Naseri told the paper he was concerned for the safety of its workers.

“Especially the nurses who were involved because now the fingers are all pointing to the nurses.”


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