The Ministry of Health has denied allegations that a three-month-old boy died from a five-in-one Quinvaxem vaccine shot, arguing that the boy died of pneumonia.
The ministry's Preventive Health Department said in a release late Monday that the death was not related to the use of Quinvaxem.
The boy, who was born on August 24, had his first injection of Quinvaxem on November 5 at a state-owned medical center in Huong Hoa District's A Doi Commune.
Sixteen hours later, he cried, sniveled and refused to be breastfed. When he turned purple, he was taken to Huong Hoa General Hospital and transferred to Quang Tri General Hospital the following day.
There he was diagnosed with severe pneumonia, the release said.
The boy died on Sunday evening (November 10).
On Monday afternoon, an autopsy on the boy showed he had died of pneumonia, according to local authorities.
On May 4, the Ministry of Health announced the temporary suspension of Quinvaxem, a combination vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b infections.
The suspension follows an increase in the number of reports of adverse events following immunization (AEFI) with Quinvaxem and, in most instances, oral poliovirus vaccine, including the death of nine young infants between November 2012 and March 2013.
The World Health Organization was then invited by Vietnamese authorities to review the 43 serious AEFI cases that have been documented in the country since Quinvaxem was introduced in mid-2010.
After an investigation, it was found that the other serious AEFIs, including those which resulted in fatalities, reported in Vietnam were either coincidental health problems related in time but not related to the use of Quinvaxem.
In October, the Ministry of Health resumed the use of Quinvaxem.
Vietnam has been administering around 4.5 million Quinvaxem shots to 1.5 million children every year.
The liquid drug, pre-qualified by the WHO, 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 the nonprofit organization UNICEF.
Quinvaxem was introduced globally in 2006 by the Netherlands-based biopharmaceutical company Crucell. It has been pushed to low-income countries, as it costs around VND77,000 (nearly four US dollars) a dose, ten times cheaper than new alternatives produced in the US and Belgium.