Vials of Esmeron, a muscle relaxant, and a hepatitis B vaccine. Nguyen Thi Thuan, a nurse at Huong Hoa District General Hospital in Quang Tri Province, mistakenly gave Esmeron shots to three newborns, leading to their deaths, on July 20, 2013.
Vietnam is possibly the second country in the world after Yemen to report children's deaths caused by wrong vaccine shots, a health official said.
Tran Dac Phu, chief of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, was referring to the deaths of three newborns in the north-central province of Quang Tri last year following vaccination.
In 1997 Yemen had reported the deaths of 21 children who mistakenly got insulin instead of vaccines.
Phu told Tuoi Tre newspaper Wednesday that investigators from the Ministry of Public Security have concluded that Nguyen Thi Thuan, a nurse at Huong Hoa District General Hospital, mistakenly gave an anesthetic to the babies instead of hepatitis B shots.
On July 20 last year, after Thuan, a nurse for more than 20 years, gave the shots to the babies -- two girls and a boy -- they turned blue within 30 minutes and had difficulty breathing.
They were rushed to the ER, but doctors were unable to save them.
Thuan was suspended, but police failed to find evidence to link her with the deaths, and she was allowed to return to work more than six months later.
But last week she was arrested, with the police saying she would be held for four months for investigation into manslaughter charges.
They also summoned seven hospital officials for questioning.
According to newswire Dan Tri, Thuan has admitted to giving the babies Esmeron – a muscle relaxant used during surgery and other procedures – by mistake.
She led investigators to the hospital and showed them a tree under which she had buried the three empty vials of Esmeron, and they seized them, Dan Tri reported.
Esmeron 50mg/5ml and hepatitis B vaccines come in vials that look similar, but the latter only contains 0.5 ml.
The General Department of Preventive Medicine said in a report Wednesday that the Huong Hoa District General Hospital had a power outage on the day the babies were vaccinated.
It said Thuan had been reckless in giving the babies the shots despite the power outage, and she had also failed to check the vaccine carefully before injecting.
The hospital was in the wrong for putting the hepatitis B vaccines along with other medicines though they are required to be kept in a separate place, the report said.
The police are looking into the culpability of other hospital officials, with some sources saying an official from another department had put the Esmeron vials in the obstetrics department.
On Wednesday the provincial Department of Health suspended Le Huynh Son, deputy chief of the hospital’s planning department, and Tran Thi Hai Van, chief of the examination department, for possible culpability in the case.
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