The Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) has ruled that the deaths of two infants in Lapu-Lapu City which were alleged to have been caused by the improper administration of immunization shots at the Barangay Pajac Health Center, were not due to the children’s vaccination.
DOH-7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas in a press conference on Wednesday said that based on the health department’s investigation, it was found that four-month-old Ayesha Suson and three-month-old Ghirvaughn Limpangog died last November 11 due to pre-existing illnesses which had nothing to do with the vaccine pentavalent, administered by the health center just three days before.
“On November 10, 2017, at around 1:01 in the morning, Ayesha Suson was admitted at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) with admitted diagnoses of pneumonia, very severe and hypovolemic shock secondary to AGE with severe dehydration. On the other hand, Ghirvaughn Limpangog was admitted at VSMMC on November 11, 2017 at around 1:16 in the morning with an admitting diagnoses of status epilepticus probably secondary to T/C bacterial meningitis,” said Bernadas in a statement.
“The cause of death of those patients could not have been the immunizations given,” Bernadas told reporters as DOH-7 concluded its initial probe into allegations that the pentavalent vaccine given to the infants last November 8 were either expired or mishandled.
According to Bernadas, DOH has supplied Pentavalent vaccines to health centers since 2013 as part of its Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) and there had been no recorded deaths.
During the designated day of immunization, patients or clients and their guardians are informed of the nature and benefits as well as any side effects or adverse reaction to the EPI vaccines, he said.
“Ang atong immunization program is safe for the children (Our immunization program is safe for the children),” assured Bernadas.
Pentavalent provides protection to a child from 5 life-threatening diseases: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and hemophilus influenza B (Hib). The vaccine which can be given routinely for 3 doses at age 6, 10 and 14 weeks old has not been associated with any serious side effects.
“Wala ta kakita ug directang rason nga ang immunization maoy nakapatay (We were not able to find a direct reason to believe that the immunization caused the children’s death),” added Bernadas.
Dr. Ramon Najarro, head of VSMMC’s Department of Pediatrics, further explained that when the two infants were brought into the government hospital, they were already both “in really bad condition.”
Najarro said Limpangog had a fever and developed seizures and was intubated at the emergency room.
“When we do that, we usually have a patient already with respiratory failure,” explained Najarro adding that the infant appeared to have a problem with his brain.
Meanwhile, baby Suson was suffering from cough, diarrhea, and severe dehydration when she was admitted to VSMMC.
“Unfortunately, despite all our efforts, the condition continued to deteriorate to the point that the patient succumbed,” Najarro said.
The health officials extended their sympathies to the families of the two infants with Bernadas assuring “We will not be stopping here”.
According to Bernadas, DOH-7 will convene experts from the Regional Adverse Effects following Immunization Committee (Raefic) to conduct an impartial investigation on the two cases.
DOH-7 temporarily suspended its immunization program in Barangay Pajac, Lapu-Lapu City, upon the request of Mayor Paz Radaza.
The Lapu-Lapu City government through the City Legal Office is conducting a parallel probe into the deaths of the two infants.
The investigation will include a check on reports reaching Radaza that the vaccines administered on the infants last November 8 were taken out from the cooler box instead of keeping them there prior to use.
“Ang ato lang gitan-aw diri kon anaa ba sa hustong pag-administer sa bakuna ang atong barangay health worker ug sa aksyon nga ato unyang pagahimoon, pero sa pagpasaka og kaso, ila na na sa pamilyang hingtungdan (We are checking if the vaccines were administered properly by our barangay health worker and what possible actions we are going to do, but on filing a case, it will be up to the concerned family),” said Radaza.
Bernadas, in a separate interview, explained that even if vaccines were to be taken out of refrigeration way before these are given to patients, they will only lose their efficacy but not cause death.
City Health Officer Dr. Rodulfo Berame, in a talk with Radaza, also explained that barangay health workers and nurses received proper training and know their jobs well.
Radaza said the death of the two infants was an isolated case as there had been no reports in the past of children who died after immunization at the city’s health centers.
Radaza said that the city will conduct an information drive on the proper handling, administration and benefits of Pentavalent vaccines to guarantee parents of their safety.
Ghirvaughn was buried yesterday at Humay-Humay Public Cemetery in Barangay Gun-ob; while Ayesha will be laid to rest today in the same cemetery.
Radaza visited the infants’ wakes, Wednesday, and assured their families that the cases will be investigated to correct whatever needs to be corrected in the operation of barangay health centers.