Health authorities in central Nghe An Province are investigating a serious situation in which five out of 65 babies in Chau Quang commune died from unknown causes 2-10 days after they were vaccinated against hepatitis B.
21-year-old Ha Thi Tuyet, a young woman whose 3-month-old son Vu Trung Kien died on December 15, told Tuoi Tre about the heartbreaking death.
“At 8:30 on December 7, I brought my son to the commune health center for vaccination. At 6 p.m. the same day he got a fever and vomited after being breastfed. Over the next several days, the boy turned pale, sweated heavily and continued vomiting,” Tuyet recalled in tears.
At 9 a.m. on December 15, bruises were seen on the boy’s chest and then on his temples. Tuyet phoned Nguyen Thi Hong, head of the health station, many times but failed to contact her. The baby died one hour later, Tuyet said.
Ho Dien Vinh, head of the commune’s Chau Thinh hamlet, where Tuyet lives, said that two reports of the death have been made – one by local police and the other by himself.
In the report made by Vinh, two local doctors, named Manh and Hai, blamed the death on a brain hemorrhage, not on possible impacts of the vaccination, Vinh said.
Similarly, a two-month-old baby in the same commune, Lo Hoang Thinh, died three days after receiving the same vaccination.
“At 4 a.m. on December 10, my son cried loudly and I breastfed him but he vomited after each feeding. Later, the boy’s lips were dry and turned blue. He then gradually closed his eyes and died,” said Luong Thi Ngoc, 34, the mother of the ill-fated baby.
Among the three other babies who died after receiving the vaccination are Quang Hao Nam and Ho Thi Linh Dan, both 3 months old.
When contacted by Tuoi Tre, Nguyen Thi Hong, head of the Chau Quang Commune Health Station, said she had reported all the deaths to the provincial Health Department and the Central Institute of Epidemiological Hygiene.
Vaccine under scrutiny
Luong Thi Thu, a nurse at the Health Station who is in charge of vaccination and who directly gave vaccinations to Kien and Thinh, said the vaccine she had received for use is coded as DPI-VGB-Hib.
“I gave each baby a shot containing a vial of the vaccine. The vaccination was made in accordance with the required technical procedures,” she said.
Meanwhile, Vi Xuan Tu, a pharmacist at the district Preventive Health Center, said he had delivered the 5-in-one vaccine coded BH-HG-UV-Hib-VGB. The vaccine belongs to lot no. 1453057 and expires on November 26, 2014.
Vi Van Ai, head of the center’s epidemic control division, said the vaccine was stored and transported in good condition. “I am sure that the vaccine has been used in accordance with technical requirements.”
Ai said the cause of the deaths of the five babies remained unknown and is being investigated. The lot of vaccine involved has been sent to Hanoi for testing,” Ai said.
Dr Bui Dinh Long, director of the Nghe An Province Health Department, said the developments of the deaths were similar to each other.
“They are abnormal deaths. We are considering many causes, not excluding the vaccine itself, which could possibly lead to such deaths. We have asked the Central Epidemiological Hygiene Institute to take samples of the said vaccine to the Quy Hop District and provincial preventive health centers for examination.
According to Tuoi Tre’s inquiry, the vaccine is Quinvaxem made in South Korea. It was imported into Vietnam at a quantity of 500,000 doses in July 2010. Currently, 250 doses of the vaccine remains at the Nghe An Province Preventive Health Center.