Another baby dies in Vietnam of controversial Dutch vaccine

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The mother of the 2.5-month-old baby who died tragically in Da Lat Wednesday after getting his first shot of the pentavalent vaccine Quinvaxem. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

An infant died in the Cetral Highlands resort town of Da Lat Wednesday after developing complications following a shot of pentavalent Quinvaxem and an oral polio vaccine a day earlier.

The 2.5-month child, only identified as T.L.N., was the third child to die of Quinvaxem since it was reintroduced in Vietnam last October, after a temporary ban in May following the deaths of nine infants since November 2012.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had recommended that Vietnam should resume use of the Dutch-made vaccine, saying tests found no problems with it.

N. was taken to a local medical center Tuesday morning to receive his first shot of Quinvaxem, which is given to babies in three stages starting when they are two months old to protect them from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B.

He became irritable that evening and was taken back to the center, but the medical staff there said he was fine.

But back at home he refused to be breastfed and turned back and blue by Wednesday morning, and was rushed to the Lam Dong Province General Hospital.

Dr Bui Xuan Thanh, general director of the hospital, said the child had stopped breathing by the time he arrived.

The hospital put him on a respirator and his heart seemed to revive occasionally, but he died later that day.

The cause of death has not been identified since the family refused to allow an autopsy.

Thanh said vaccine experts would investigate while the Quinvaxem batch would not be used any longer.

Two other children, a five-month-old girl in the southern province of Bac Lieu and a three-month-old boy in the north-central province of Quang Tri, died recently getting Quinvaxem shots.

In both cases, the Ministry of Health issued statements denying that the vaccine was to blame.

Quinvaxem is pre-qualified by the WHO and has been distributed in Vietnam for free since June 2010 as part of a program run by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization through UNICEF.


It was introduced globally in 2006 by the Netherlands-based Crucell and has been pushed to low-income countries since it only costs around VND77,000 (less than four US dollars) a dose, or a 10th of the price of new, safer alternatives.

Vietnam gets its Quinvaxem from South Korea and administers around 4.5 million shots to 1.5 million children every year.

Some parents prefer to pay VND500,000 ($24) per shot for their children to get shots of Pentaxim, an acellular five-in-one shot made by French drug company Sanofi Pasteur with purified antigens that are supposed to be safer than the whole-cell preparations found in the whooping cough component of Quinvaxem.

Vietnamese health officials have said following the series of deaths that the country cannot afford purified vaccines yet, but that Quinvaxem is safe enough.

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