Probe into infant's death set as DOH tries to quell panic, doubts

TWO investigations — one by the Department of Health (DOH) 7 and the other by the local government unit — were ordered Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, into the death of an infant.

While the baby’s parents have said their daughter died after receiving vaccines in a hospital, DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas would not comment on the parents’ claim until an investigation by the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu) is completed. He said the Eversley Childs Sanitarium and General Hospital already submitted an initial report but he cannot reveal the details. He also said the public, especially the parents, should not panic and doubt vaccination. There has been no reported death due to the polio vaccine, he added.

For her part, Mandaue City Councilor Nerissa Soon-Ruiz, Council committee on health chairperson, said a local probe has to be done in order that this incident would not happen again and to assure parents.

It was the baby’s parents, Crisela Toniacao and Johnnel Abello, who said Thursday, Dec. 12, that their one month and 25 days old daughter fell ill after she was given the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) through drops into the mouth and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) injected in both of her legs at the Eversley Childs Sanitarium and General Hospital in Barangay Jagobiao, Mandaue City. The parents also said the nurse who administered the vaccines allegedly did not sanitize the baby’s legs before injecting and was on his phone.

The infant was sick when Toniacao gave birth to her through cesarean delivery. The baby was given antibiotics. When she was six weeks old, she caught a cough from an older sibling. Toniacao said the last time she gave cough medicine to her daughter was last Nov. 28. The infant was vaccinated on Dec. 4. She died the next day.

The parents filed a blotter report on their infant’s death with the Opao police station in Mandaue City stating that the baby was healthy and did not show any signs of distress before she was brought to the Eversley hospital.

This case has raised concerns of another vaccine scare after the Dengvaxia controversy on the use of the anti-dengue vaccine in the Philippines that resulted in low immunization rates. Several deaths were attributed to the dengue vaccine. Because of the scare, people refused to have their children immunized. Health officials believed this led to an infectious disease crisis and the measles outbreak this year.

Dr. Bernadas said the Eversley hospital submitted an initial report on the incident to the DOH but he would prefer to wait for the result of the investigation being conducted by the team he sent to gather the facts. The team is composed of Resu personnel and is led by Dr. Jonathan Neil Erasmo, local health support division head.

In an earlier phone interview, Bernadas urged the public, especially parents, not to panic and doubt vaccination.

“Pa-imbestigahan nato kung unsay tinuod o unsay circumstances sa iyang estorya. Ang assurance wala tay reported nga namatay tungod sa vaccine labi na kanang sa polio vaccine. Dili na angay ika-panic tungod kay wala pa tay basehan kung unsay kamatuoran. Ato pang imbestigaran kung kanus-a ang bata gibakunahan, kanus-a namatay, ug unsay hinungdan sa kamatayon,” he said. (We are investigating what happened and the circumstances as detailed by the parents. Our assurance is that there has been no reported death due to the vaccine, especially the polio vaccine. We should not panic because there is no basis. We will still investigate when the baby was vaccinated, when she died and the cause of death.)

Dennis Adlawan, hospital administrative officer, denied Thursday the parents’ claims. He said it was possible the vaccine had nothing to do with her death. The nurse in charge of the immunization, Adlawan added, has been in practice for almost 20 years and did the vaccination according to hospital standards.

Adlawan also said he hoped the case would not discourage parents from having their children immunized since vaccines are important to human health, and that the public should not rush to judgment.

Councilor Soon-Ruiz, also a medical doctor, tapped the Mandaue City Health Office (MCHO) to investigate the incident.

She said it was sad the baby died, and there is a need to investigate this so people would not be afraid of being immunized because this could lead to a bigger problem in the city.

“Karon baya ang gibuhat sa (DOH) kay i-encourage ang immunization kay nisaka ang cases sa polio, daghan kaayo nangamatay sa measles, nya nahitabo nasad ni ron. Mahadlok nasad ning mga inahan,” she said. (The DOH is encouraging immunization because of the rise in the cases of polio, the deaths caused by measles, then this happened. Mothers would be scared to have their children immunized.)

She said if there is need to dig up the body of the baby for the success of the investigation, they might do so.

The team to investigate the incident will be headed by Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes with MCHO head Dr. Rose Marie Tirado as vice chairman, she said. Team members are Hospital Chief Dr. Maria Espinosa, DOH Development Management Officer Hermela Tan, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office manager, Lolita Ganapin of Bidlisiw Foundation, Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president Dallie Cabatingan and Claire Abadia for the secretariat. (WBS, KFD)


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