Government may be held accountable for vaccine complications under new rule

By Lien Chau, Thanh Nien News

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 A baby receives a vaccine at a clinic in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang
In a rare move that will bring greater accountability into Vietnam's heath care sector, the Ministry of Health has proposed a new rule that will hold the government accountable for adverse complications from vaccination. 
The rule, expected to take effect next year, comes on the heels of several infant deaths that have been linked to Quinvaxem, a vaccine that Vietnam has chosen for its national immunization program since 2010. 
Under the proposed rule, the government will have to pay for medical costs and compensation when there are vaccine complications. It will collect the money back from health care workers who are in charge of administrating the shots and their clinics. 
Since November 2012, at least 15 babies died after getting Quinvaxem, a 5-in-1 vaccine against against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B infections, at public health clinics around the country.
During the time, the health ministry once suspended the vaccine, which was distributed by a South Korean company and has been given for free to babies from two months old here. 
In other cases, several infant deaths were linked to vaccines like tuberculosis and hepatitis B.
When vaccination-related deaths happened, local authorities would launch investigations, but in many cases, blamed them on babies' prior to medical conditions.
In a rare case, a court in the central province of Quang Tri early this year sent two doctors and one nurse to 3-5 years in prison for mistaking Hep-B vaccine with a muscle relaxant, leading to the deaths of three new-born babies in 2013.
While local authorities have never introduced comprehensive statistics on vaccine complications, many concerned parents brought their kids to non-subsidized clinics for chargeable vaccines.
As the clinics often failed to meet the increased demands, many ended up keeping their kids waiting for new supplies, or bringing them overseas for vaccination.

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