More than 20 newborns remain hospitalised in intensive care units but appear to be improving nearly two weeks after showing signs of blood poisoning following a hepatitis B vaccine.
Health officials are still struggling to determine and explain what led to the severe reactions and the deaths of three newborns at Bago Region General Hospital. But parents of seven infants medevacked to Yankin Children’s Hospital in Yangon are convinced of the culprit that has their sons and daughters struggling for life.
“It was the vaccine. What else could it be?” said Ko Aung Soe.
The infants’ tribulations, which began just hours after their birth, have underscored the country’s underfunded and ailing health system, revealing the toll of medical shortages and doctors ill-appraised of national policies.
“I feel hopeless,” Ko Aung Soe Myint said. “So far, no doctor has even explained why my daughter is sick.”
At first, Ko Aung Soe Myint thought his daughter was the only one affected with seizures and difficulty breathing. She was born in the morning on March 7. Around noon a nurse came to administer a hepatitis B vaccine. Within four hours something appeared to have gone wrong.
“Her skin colour started turning blue. Doctors came and they took her to a special ward. They wouldn’t say why,” he said. He added that he had not seen his daughter receive any other medication or injections.
“In the evening, other babies in a similar condition arrived at the special treatment ward. After midnight the doctors called all the parents, and said, ‘your children are not well.’ But they didn’t explain what was happening,” he said.