The deaths of two infants in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu last November 11 were not caused by the vaccines administered to them, according to the initial investigation conducted by the Department of Health (DOH).
According to a Philippine Star report, DOH- 7 director Dr. Jaime Bernadas stated, “The conclusion arrived at after the discussion is that the cause of death of both patients could not have been the immunizations that were given… As per initial evaluation, again, this could not have been vaccine-related deaths.”
Based on the department’s investigation, 3-month-old Ghirvaughn Limpangog and 4-month-old Ayesha Suson were already suffering from pre-existing illnesses before the vaccines were administered, explained Dr. Bernadas in a press conference.
Both babies were vaccinated at Pajac Health Center in Lapu-Lapu City on November 8. According to the health center's records, 97 other children were also given shots on the same day. Baby Ghirvaughn received the Oral Polio vaccine. Baby Ayesha received the Pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and Hemophilus influenza B (Hib).
The vaccines were administered by a midwife, and both babies were receiving the second dose of their respective vaccines, said Dr. Bernadas. “Any adverse effects would have manifested after the infants were administered the first dose of the vaccines,” he told Manila Bulletin.
The infants were brought to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) when their health conditions worsened after they were vaccinated, the babies' mothers reported. . Dr. Ramon Najarro, chair of VSMMC’s Department of Pediatrics, declared to Philippine Star “the cause of death of the two infants cannot be attributed to the immunization.”
Baby Ayesha was diagnosed by doctors at the hospital with pneumonia and severe dehydration. “The patient was already in Hypovolemic Shock or circulatory failure. Immediately, the patient was put into fluid resuscitation. Unfortunately, the patient eventually deteriorated and was put in life support including a mechanical ventilator,” said Dr. Najarro.
Baby Ghirvaughn had a fever and was experiencing seizures. He was referred to VSMMC after being given antibiotics and other medication at another hospital in Lapu-Lapu. His official cause of death was status epilepticus (SE) and meningitis, an infection and swelling around the brain and spinal cord.
SE is a condition where the patient experiences one minutes-long seizure or multiple seizures a few minutes apart. It is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. SE is considered a medical emergency, and it may lead to permanent brain damage, if not death.
Lynlen Suson, the mother of Ayesha, and Gian Igoy, the mother of Ghirvaughn, told Cebu Daily News of the Philippine Daily Inquirer they were not asked about the health condition of their babies on the day the infants received their shots and were not informed of the vaccines' possible side effects. Both families are considering having their infants autopsied.
The common side effects of immunization shots in children are soreness on the injection site and fever, said Dr. Faith Alcazaren, who practices general pediatrics at Perpetual Succor Hospital and Maternity in Marikina and at Marikina Doctors Hospital and Medical Center. “Severe allergic reaction is very rare, based on a big body of evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” she told Smart Parenting.
Pediatrician and infectious disease specialist Dr. Carmina Arriola-Delos Reyes adds that a fever usually arrives within 24 hours after the shot. However, if the fever is persistent, a child should be brought to and evaluated by a doctor.
The DOH is continuing with its investigation on the babies' deaths. “We are not closing the case. We forward the matter to the committee (Regional Adverse Effects Following Immunization Committee)...They will determine in finality if what really has been the cause of the death of the patients,” said DOH-7 director Dr. Bernadas.
Meanwhile, the immunization program in Barangay Pajac continues its day-to-day operations. “We continue the immunization since we have not observed any direct reason that the immunization has caused the death of the children,” said Dr. Bernadas.