Measles outbreak spurred by anti-vaxxers shuts down Samoan government - 2019-12-02
While some quickly blamed the vaccine itself, officials later determined that two nurses had improperly prepared the immunizations. Investigators found that they had mixed in a lethal dose of muscle relaxant, and one of the nurses tried to cover up the error by taking the empty bottle of the muscle relaxant home after retrieving it from the garbage. The two faced charges of manslaughter and were both sentenced to five years in prison in August of this year.
Still, news of the heartbreaking deaths shook the island nation's confidence in the healthcare system. And anti-vaccination groups pounced on the circumstances. Most notably, the deaths were picked up by the Children's Health Defense, run by the prominent anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. As The Washington Post noted, Kennedy's organization spent months highlighting the deaths on Facebook while questioning the safety of the MMR vaccines. But the organization did not correct the posts or update its audience with information regarding the nurses' error and convictions.
Kennedy visited Samoa in June, appearing alongside local anti-vaccine advocates and even a staff member of the US embassy. In November, Kennedy's organization sent a letter to the Samoan prime minister, encouraging officials to question the MMR vaccine. Kennedy peddles the false and dangerous claim that vaccines are linked to autism, despite the fact that numerous scientific studies have robustly debunked the baseless claim.