Girl, 10, Dies After Being Administered Encephalitis Vaccine

By Salai Thant Zin 23 November 2017

PATHEIN—Health officials in Irrawaddy Region are trying to determine if the death on Tuesday of a fifth-grade student in the regional capital, Pathein, was related to the Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccination she received a day earlier.

Shin Thant Wai, 10, came down with fever and a headache after being administered the JE vaccine by injection at her school on Monday. Teachers informed her parents, who took her home. The girl reportedly started vomiting a yellowish fluid in the evening, and was taken to a pediatrician the following day, who recommended that she be hospitalized.

“Her teacher phoned and told me to bring her home at around 11 am on Nov. 20. She was running a temperature in the evening, and we took her to a clinic. She continued to vomit during the night,” the girl’s mother, Daw Mu Myint, told The Irrawaddy.

“So we went to see a child specialist next morning, and he told us to send her to a hospital. So we did, but she experienced epileptic fits that evening, and never regained consciousness,” she said.

The Irrawaddy Region Public Health Department said it was investigating to determine whether the death was related to the JE vaccine.

The department has immunized over 57,000 students against JE at 265 basic education schools in Pathein since Nov. 15.

A 7-year-old in Irrawaddy’s Thabaung died on Nov. 19, three days after being vaccinated, but Dr. Htar Htar Lin, deputy director of the vaccination project, said the boy’s death was due to other health problems.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Sports is still investigating the death of a 13-year-old eighth grader from Shan State’s Pinlaung who died after being vaccinated against JE last week.

The ministry released a statement on Nov. 18 saying that two other children had fallen seriously ill after being immunized, but had recovered after treatment.

In a statement, the ministry listed a number of conditions under which children should not receive the JE vaccine. These include having a fever or suffering from chronic or communicable diseases like tuberculosis, immune deficiency, epilepsy and so on.

“We want parents to follow these guidelines carefully. If a child is on a medication, has a disease or does not feel well on the day of vaccination, their parents should consult a doctor before the vaccination,” said Pathein-based child medicine specialist Dr Thura Zaw.

Funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, the JE vaccination campaign was launched on Nov. 15, targeting 14 million children aged between 9 months and 15 years across the country.

As of Nov. 17, more than 5 million children had been immunized against JE. Some 5,000 children reported having a fever and headache after vaccination, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.