Second vaccine related serious adverse event confirmed

Yesterday’s press conference. (l-r) Public Health Surveillance Officer Williams, Health Minister Bule and Dr. Philippe Guyant from WHO. Photo: Anita Roberts

Of the 129, 568 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Vanuatu so far, there have been two confirmed serious adverse events classified as vaccine-product related reactions.

The first patient became ill in August this year after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and was transferred from Port Vila to a medical facility overseas. 

The second patient became ill in October after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Public Health Surveillance Officer, Wendy Williams, conveyed in yesterday's press conference that the second patient is being treated at the Vila Central Hospital (VCH).

She said the patient has responded well to treatment and remains in stable condition.

Minister of Health, Silas Bule, has assured that the government is meeting the medical costs for both patients.

 “Over 7.5billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have now given worldwide,” he said.

“Some people experience mild to moderate symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, diarrhoea, and pain at the injection side. These usually go away within a few days.

“More serious adverse events after immunization such blood clots are rare but do occur. For Vanuatu, it is expected that 2 to 4 people per 100,000 will deliver a serious adverse event linked to the COVID-19 vaccine product. 

“VCH stocks medication to treat blood clots along with other medical intravenous immunoglobulin, but further treatment may be required.

“VCH has the capability to carry out initial testing but for some adverse events following immunization testing using highly specialized equipment, supplies or expertise is needed.

“Efforts are ongoing to build this capacity in Vanuatu through overseas testing is currently still required. Financial support for overseas medical treatment and testing is therefore important for cases that cannot be fully managed locally.”

Minister Bule said the decision to transfer a patient overseas is based on a recommendation of the National Overseas Referral Committee and endorse by the Ministry of Health Executive. 

“The causality of a serious adverse event is assessed by the National Vaccine Export Advisory Group to confirm if it is linked to a COVID-19 vaccine product,” he said.

“If so, the finances available may be used to cover the medical evacuation flight if needed, hospital bills and daily allowances, accommodation and quarantine for the patient with one accompanying relative.

“The COVAX Facility also provides a compensation program for individuals who suffered a serious adverse event resulting in permanent impairment or death associated with a COVID-19 vaccine procured or distributed through COVAX, or the administration of such as vaccine.

“This can take time to process, with forms to be completed and uploaded to an online COVAX platform for assessment. For vaccines provided through bilateral agreements with other countries, insurance schemes are also available.

“The Ministry of Health can provide assistance in this process as needed."

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