Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Ministry of Health yesterday gave an assurance that the vaccination programme in public facilities was safe for young children, even as investigations continued into the death of a child shortly after being inoculated weeks ago.
Officials from the ministry, appearing before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament yesterday as the auditor general's special performance audit of the ministry was examined, gave the assurance in response to questions from committee member, medical doctor Morais Guy.
Guy wanted to know if the process of storing vaccines on arrival from overseas, and before being taken into custody by the Ministry of Health, was meeting international standards.
Cold chain in place
Chief medical officer (CMO) in the ministry, Dr Eva Lewis Fuller, gave the following commitment.
"There is a cold chain in place which we make every effort to maintain from importation, coming in at the airport to actual delivery of the vaccines at the health centre, because if that is not maintained, then the efficacy of the vaccines is compromised, and we cannot be assured that we have really fully protected the children from particular diseases," Lewis Fuller said.
Continuing, she said: "Arrangements have been made by the minister for additional cold storage to store drugs and vaccines at the airport, so that there is no break in the cold chain when they come in from being imported. They can be put in the cold storage at their airport until they are removed, and this is monitored; temperatures are taken. We have a system, a whole desk; that officer goes out to monitor the refrigerators within the hospital and health centres and they have records of the temperatures in each of these refrigerators."
She said retraining was also done, "so that they are kept at the correct temperatures, 'cause you know some vaccines have to be kept at minus degrees Celsius and some can be kept at 4C, so we have to meet the requirement for each type of vaccine. We are quite good at doing that."
The CMO's reassurance comes after the death of one-year-old Kerome Forrest, of Clarendon, a day after receiving a vaccine at a clinic in Mocho, Clarendon, last month.
The child's mother said after receiving an injection at the clinic, the child went to bed and never woke up. The cause of death is not known, and the family opted for a private autopsy.
Permanent Secretary Dr Jean Dixon said the integrity of vaccines and cold-chain storage is preserved.