Hepatitis B vaccine kills 3 babies in Vietnam

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Nguyen Dinh Dao, 35 (second from left) cries as he stands outside the morgue while an autopsy is performed on his newborn son at the Huong Hoa General Hospital in Quang Tri Province. Dao's son and two other newborns died Saturday morning after they were given hepatitis B vaccine shots. Photo: Nguyen Phuc

Health authorities and police in the north-central province of Quang Tri have sealed 136 vials of hepatitis B vaccine and banned the use of other vials in two batches following the death of three newborns on Saturday morning soon after they received the shots. 

Lam Chi Duc, director of Huong Hoa District's preventive health center, said 107 vials in his center and 29 left at the Huong Hoa General Hospital where the babies were born Friday night have been sealed.

The three vials used to inject the three babies have been sent for testing to relevant institutions, Tran Van Thanh, director of Quang Tri Heath Department, said.

Nguyen Xuan Tuong, director of the province's preventive health center, said they have asked higher authorities to send other batches of the vaccine to the province.

A report from the Huong Hoa General Hospital in Quang Tri said the newborns turned blue and had breathing difficulties 30 minutes after getting the shots.

They were rushed to the emergency ward, but doctors failed to resuscitate them.

According to the report, the babies' went into shock after the injection.

Nguyen Van Thien, the hospital's deputy director, told Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper that Nguyen Thi Thuan, a nurse with more than 20 years of experience had given the injection.

The babies' bodies were returned to their families later on Saturday after Quang Tri and Huong Hoa police had carried out autopsies.

Police said they are investigating the case further.

The Quang Tri Health Department said the vaccine given to the babies belonged to the V-GB 020812E and V-GB 030812E batches produced by the Vaccine and Biological Production Company No. 1 under Ministry of Health in September 2012.

The hospital received the vaccines, which have an expiry date in 2015, July 18.

Thanh of the Quang Tri Heath Department, told Thanh Nien Saturday that the babies were all healthy when born; and the hospital staff had "followed the proper procedures."   

"It is too early to talk about the cause now," Thanh said.

He also said that health authorities will recheck all injection procedures and punish those found violating them.

The hepatitis B vaccine is usually administered to babies within 24 hours after their birth. Under the national vaccination program it has been given free since 1997.

This is the first of four shots that each Vietnamese baby is given, with the second, third and fourth administered when the baby is two, three and four months old respectively, according to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

According to news reports, about 10 babies died in 2007 after receiving hepatitis B vaccinations.

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted an expert as saying that the injection should not be given within 24 hours after babies being born because they are very vulnerable and can have congenital diseases yet to be detected.

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