Fri, May 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

CDC investigates alleged infant vaccine cover-up

REPORT REQUIRED:The CDC deputy director-general decried Hsinchu Mackay Memorial Hospital’s conduct, but added that the newborns’ health was not in danger

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

The Mackay Memorial Hospital’s Hsinchu branch is pictured on May 2, 2017.

Photo: Hung Mei-hsiu, Taipei Times

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said it has opened an inquiry into Mackay Memorial Hospital’s Hsinchu branch, to determine how four newborns were given the wrong vaccines in February and into an alleged cover-up.

The CDC’s announcement came one day after Chinese-language Next Magazine published an expose on the incident.

The hospital yesterday admitted to the mistake in a statement.

Asked for comment, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said the newborns were given a five-in-one vaccine, instead of a hepatitis B vaccine.

The hospital failed to fulfill its contractual obligation to inform the government within a day of any mistakes made vaccinating the children under its care, Lo said.

The CDC did not hear of the incident from the hospital until it became public in the media, he said.

Calling the hospital’s conduct a “severe breach of regulations,” Lo said the hospital is under orders from the CDC to provide a full report on the incident.

The hospital must repay the government for the wasted vaccines and might lose its license to vaccinate, he said.

According to regulations, newborns are only required to receive Bacillus Calmette-Guerin and hepatitis B vaccinations, he said.

The five-in-one vaccine — which inoculates against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b — is intended for infants who are two months old, and is administered in three doses over two-month intervals, he said.

There is little or no evidence to suggest that the infants who were prematurely exposed to the five-in-one vaccine face a health risk, he said.

However, the vaccine would have no effect on the infants, who would have to receive the inoculations again, Lo said.

The Hsinchu Public Health Bureau and the CDC have formed a task force to monitor the four infants’ health and investigate the hospital, he said.

The hospital said the vaccines have visually similar containers and were kept in the same cabinet, which confused the personnel tasked with delivering the hepatitis B vaccines.

The hospital said it does not believe the infants are in any medical danger, adding that they were discharged after appearing healthy in all of the tests it administered.

The hospital is committed to improving its operating procedures to avoid further errors, it said.

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