Boy dies after Measles-Rubella vaccination

At least one death linked to the recent mass Measles-Rubella immunization campaign, the Ministry of Health has reported.

The deceased, a boy, whose identity was not readily given, passed away on Thursday at the pediatric unit in Mulago National Referral Hospital after being diagnosed with Stevenson Johnson syndrome, a severe skin and mucus membrane disorder that normally occurs as a reaction to medication or an infection.

The deceased and his siblings were hospitalized at Mulago after they presented symptoms of a skin rush around the head area and red eyes. The skin rush later spread to the back and other parts of the body.

Jace Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health told journalists that about 90 reports of adverse events following immunization (AEFI) were recorded.

“The majority of the cases (77) were minor cases including pain at the injection site, mild fever, plus or minus a mild skin rash. Thirteen (13) of the cases needed investigation while 10 of the cases are social media reports and could not be verified and thus not investigated. Therefore, our investigations have ruled out death attributable to the use of vaccines. Two cases with skin problems are still hospitalized,” Aceng said.

To understand the cause of the reactions, Aceng said, samples have been sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to ascertain the cause of the reactions in the children.

Acording to Aceng, reactions like rushes, swelling at the point of injecting, headache and fever should be expected after immunization.

“During immunization, a number of reactions are expected. But none of these should last for a long time. And that is why we have dismissed other reports and are focusing on the three cases that have lasted for a long time,” Aceng said.

She said that a total of 90 reports were received from parents and health workers in the aftermath of the immunisation campaign held last month, but most of them have been dismissed.

Dr Alfred Driwale, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI) said that it is impossible that the MR vaccine was the cause of the adverse reaction in the children or the death of the reported case.

“Each vial has 10 doses. The same vaccine that vaccinated the three was used on seven other children at the same vaccination post yet we have not received any other complaints of adverse reactions like those of the three children. At this point we suspect something else led to the reactions and not the vaccine,” Dr Driwale said.

Similarly, Dr Deogratius Munube, the president of the Pediatric Association of Uganda says that anything could have caused the adverse reactions in the deceased boy and the Measles/Rubella vaccine should not be looked at the major cause.

Dr Yonas T Woldermariam, a representative of the World Health Organisation says that the vaccines used were safe and were not the cause of death as posted on many social media sites.

“Before a vaccine can be rolled out, we carry a number of tests to determine its efficacy and suitability to the general public. We have a data bank where we store all complaints made against vaccines or medications passed so that we can follow up. And these three cases will be going there,” Dr Woldermariam said.

According to the health ministry, over 19.4 million children aged 15 and below were immunized in the campaign.