There’s a small town in the state of Chiapas, Mexico called La Pimienta (… pimienta means pepper, by the way). It’s a not so uncommon a name for a town or village in Latin America. In this particular case, it’s a rural mining town of about 3,806 people. On Friday (May 8, 2015), public health officials arrived in La Pimienta and, using loudspeakers, announced that they would be giving vaccinations to newborn babies.
There are no medical clinics or hospitals in La Pimienta; it’s a very poor area. So when the government health care workers showed up offering vaccines, local parents brought their babies. A total of 52 infants received the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (for tuberculosis), rotavirus and Hepatitis B vaccines on Friday. By that evening, 31 of the children “presented adverse reactions presumably associated with the application of these vaccines,” according to Mexican health officials.
Two of the children (each 1 year of age) have died, while the remaining 29 have been hospitalized (in the nearby city of Simojovel) for what are believed to be “side effects” of the vaccines. Six of those 29 are in critical condition.
A reporter with the Associated Press (AP) was apparently told by a Roman Catholic priest, Father Marcelo Pérez, as saying that the families of the dead infants became sick within hours of being vaccinated.
Health officials have not confirmed the cause of two deaths and the illnesses, so as a precautionary measure the Mexican Institute for Social Security on Saturday (May 9) suspended all Hep B vaccines from the production lot used within the municipality of Simojovel.
Parents interviewed said that shortly after their children had received their vaccines they came down with fever and were unable to sleep due to the convulsions they were suffering, as well as other symptoms. They described how their children felt intense pain in their head.
The parents of the two infants who died buried their children on Sunday. Government authorities in Simojovel provided the families with the coffins. The parents were so incensed at what happened that they did not allow medical personnel to perform autopsies on the babies.
Yeah, vaccines are really safe. You betcha. Thirty-one out of 52. How do you like them odds?