There’s a lot of pain today in the Chiapas mining community of La Pimienta, but there’s anger, too. Following the deaths of two infants on Friday and the hospitalization of at least 29 others after they suffered adverse effects from vaccinations, there are also a lot of questions.
The parents of the two who died, Emanuel Francisco and Yadira, both barely a month old, are so angry with health authorities that they have refused to allow autopsies.
The parents’ nightmare began Friday when health personnel visited the town of 2,000 people, dispatching a vehicle with loudspeakers to advertise that immunization shots would be offered at the local clinic, a simple affair that has no staff but provides a location in which visiting doctors can see patients.
Fifty-two newborn children were delivered to the clinic by their parents who watched as the shots — for tuberculosis, rotavirus and Hepatitis B — were carefully administered and their details entered into a written record containing the children’s names and ages, and on to vaccination cards, too, which were given to parents.
It was soon after they returned to their homes that their young children began to cry, but parents assumed they were suffering from normal symptoms of vaccination. But the crying did not stop.
Later in the afternoon, the families found rides into Simojovel, the municipal seat 10 kilometers away, and home of the nearest clinic with a doctor. Two of the babies stopped crying just before they arrived; 10 minutes later, upon arrival at the clinic, both were pronounced dead.
On Saturday, federal health officials announced the suspension of the National Immunization Program pending an investigation into what transpired in Chiapas. Today, the Social Security Institute, IMSS, said the suspension would apply only to a batch of Hepatitis B vaccine that corresponded to that used in Simojovel.
The needles used in the vaccinations are being examined to determine if a virus or bacteria might have caused the reactions.
The surviving infants, several of whom were still in critical condition yesterday, are now in the Dr. Gilberto Gómez Maza Hospital in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, where they were visited yesterday by Governor Manuel Velasco Coello and the director general of IMSS, José Antonio González Anaya.
Both said the needs of the families will be attended to and a working group established to respond to needs of the community.
Meanwhile, the precise number of babies affected by the shots remains unclear. IMSS says there are 29, but the state’s health department says there are 37.