HA NOI (VNS)— Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said yesterday that only five children in Viet Nam died after being injected with the Korean-made Quinvaxem vaccine early this year.
Tien rejected the recent media reports that the Quinvaxem vaccine had caused the deaths of nine children.
A medical council confirmed that the vaccine was not the cause of the deaths of at least four of the five children, she said. Nevertheless, the ministry decided to suspend the vaccine for three months.
During the suspension, the ministry will co-operate with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and international scientists to assess Quinvaxem vaccine use in Viet Nam, she said.
Samples of the vaccine will be sent to an independent laboratory in the UK for further testing, she added.
Officials from the ministry plan to attend a global vaccine congress where the Quinvaxem vaccine will be up for discussion.
If the congress concludes that the Quinvaxem vaccine did not cause the deaths, the ministry will allow localities to use the vaccine, Tien said. If not, the vaccine will be replaced.
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan approved the suspension.
He ordered the health ministry to send a report of its vaccination activities for the past decade to the Government before June 20.
The report is required to name the vaccines used, their origins, their effectiveness in preventing diseases, the number of child deaths after being injected with the vaccines and other vaccines that could replace them.
Vaccines used in Viet Nam are WHO-prequalified for the National Expanded Programme for Immunisation, meaning that they must meet the global safety and quality standards, said Takeshi Kasai, WHO's Representative to Viet Nam.
In addition, vaccines are regularly monitored for safety after they have been licensed for use in Viet Nam.
"The benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risk of disease, and many more injuries and deaths would occur without vaccines," Kasai said.
The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS), an independent group of global experts with considerable experience in vaccine safety, is also investigating these adverse events.
The ministry allowed the Quinvaxem vaccine to be used in 2010. — VNS