While everyone in New Zealand is losing their mind over a drawing that refers to the measles epidemic very few are having a hard look at who actually bears some responsibility for the measles outbreak.

The fact that the PM of Samoa Tuilaepa Sailele was not vaccinated himself until this week should be a headline story.

The epidemic which has killed at least 62 people in Samoa has forced the government to tell families that are not vaccinated to display red flags outside their homes. While medical teams are going door-to-door administering vaccines and government services and businesses were shut down for 48 hours the Samoan PM has denied that his government was too slow to respond to the measles outbreak.

There are more than 4,200 reported cases of measles in the country, out of a total population of 200,000.

[…] Authorities have urged people to stay home and limit non-essential travel.

[…]There are currently 172 measles patients in the country’s hospitals — among them are 19 critically-ill children and three pregnant women.

[…] At least one funeral home in the Pacific Island nation has run out of coffins for children […]

The Government of Samoa has come under fire for its handling of the measles epidemic, amid accusations officials were too slow in responding to the initial outbreak.

Answering questions from reporters at a press conference, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele rejected claims his Government could have handled the crisis better.

“The measles that we have caught came from a visitor from New Zealand, and so we did not leave it too late,” he said.

[…] Asked by a British journalist why Samoan authorities did not start a mass vaccination program months ago, Mr Sailele tried to change the subject to UK politics.[…]

The Prime Minister also defended his Government’s controversial decision to suspend measles vaccinations for several months last year, following the deaths of two children who were later found to have been administered the shots incorrectly.

A nurse had mixed the vaccine powder with an expired anaesthetic, killing the babies. The two nurses involved in the incident pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were subsequently jailed.

Mr Sailele said when the deaths happened, there were concerns about the safety of Samoa’s vaccine stocks.

“Those two children died, at the same time, there was also suspicion, and not just in Samoa but also those overseas say in America, where a lot of people [were] questioning the vaccines we are using,” he said.

The Samoan PM said he had seen young people refusing to be immunised.

“It is disappointing and I am very angry. Very angry in the sense that we have done all that is possible,” Prime Minister Susuga Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said.


The fear of vaccinations didn’t came out of nowhere. The fact that the PM himself didn’t get vaccinated until recently tells a story. While the deaths of children due to nurses’ incompetence would have aggravated the situation and added to the fear isn’t it the job of the government to push vaccinations and to allay the people’s fear in order to protect the population? Where were the education campaigns to reassure people that the vaccines were safe? Even now that children are dying some people are still too scared to immunise.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa has survived four attempts on his life so far. The most recent attempt was in August this year. This week he announced that people should stop having sex in order to halt the spread of the deadly disease. As one wit said somewhere, shagging is Samoa’s number two sport after rugby so he is not going to be Mr Popularity for a long time yet.

PHOTO: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele denied his Government could have responded to the crisis sooner. (Supplied: Government of Samoa)