Sunday, January 27, 2013
Vietnam - Expert defends use of Korean vaccine following 6 deaths
After six babies in Vietnam died within the last two months after being injected with Quinvaxem, a vaccine produced in South Korea to immunize against common childhood diseases, a senior expert stood up to justify the need to continue with the said vaccine.
Nguyen Tran Hien – chief of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) and head of the national expanded program on immunization – added that, following the deaths, NIHE sent the vaccine samples to an independent laboratory recommended by the World Health Organization for tests.
He confirmed in an interview with Tuoi Tre that the imported vaccine lot meets quality standards of Vietnam.
Since quality, services, injection process, and needles and syringes all meet requirements, he said allergic reaction or another unidentified reason could be the cause behind the deaths.
“We can’t identify it exactly due to unavailable evidence,” said Hien. All the three deaths in the central province of Nghe An occurred when the babies returned home and they had no post-injection health record at local health agencies.
Experts also do not know if the victims had contracted any other diseases at the time.
In 2007, Vietnam witnessed a case of post-injection allergic reaction against Hepatitis B but the cause has not been identified so far.
Hien added that the death rate after injection of DPT (i.e diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), in the world was one in a million. In Vietnam before 2010 when Quinvaxem vaccine was not used, the death rate after injection was 0.6 over a million and now it is 0.17 over a million.
Quinvaxem is a vaccine against five deadly childhood diseases: diphtheria (D), tetanus (T), pertussis (P, whooping cough), hepatitis B (HepB), and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
So far, around 429 million doses of Quinvaxem vaccine have been used in over 30 nations since 2006.
Every year, Vietnam consumes 4.5 million doses of Quinvaxem.
Drawing from experience, he suggested health staff should better consult the conditions of babies before the injection and well observe them 30 minutes after injection. They also need to advise parents on how to care for their infants.
Finally, Quinvaxem vaccine is not a hundred percent safe so it must be carefully prescribed for babies with previous reactions, Hien noted.
Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health, Nguyen Van Binh said it needs scientific evidence before making a decision to stop the use of a vaccine.
However, Vietnam has halted the use of the suspicious vaccine lot in Hanoi, Nghe An and Thanh Hoa, where the deaths occurred.
The Ministry of Health convenes a professional meeting on January 9 to discuss the reason behind the deaths.