Im­pos­si­ble to say if im­mu­ni­sa­tion caused sick­ness in 3-month-old Jude, says ex­pert

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Emma Rus­sell

Aweek af­ter a 3-month-old boy was vac­ci­nated against the ro­tavirus dis­ease he al­most died from an ob­struc­tion to his in­testines — known to be a rare re­sponse to the vac­cine.

An im­mu­ni­sa­tion ex­pert said it was im­pos­si­ble to tell if the vac­cine brought on the sick­ness. The fam­ily were told by doc­tors that Jude’s case was as rare as one in 50,000.

But the fam­ily have spo­ken out to warn oth­ers to keep an eye out for symp­toms and seek treat­ment straight away if con­cerned.

De­scrib­ing them­selves as “ripped to shreds with stress”, David and Sonya Cooper found them­selves at Auck­land’s Star­ship chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal giv­ing their baby boy one last kiss be­fore he was wheeled away for ur­gent surgery at 4am.

Baby Jude made it through surgery two weeks ago but con­tin­ues to be mon­i­tored.

The fam­ily’s “week from hell” started two days af­ter Jude re­ceived the ro­tavirus vac­cine.

Ro­tavirus is a highly con­ta­gious virus that in­fects the in­tes­tine caus­ing gas­troen­teri­tis and fever, pre­dom­i­nantly in in­fants and young chil­dren.

Sonya said a day af­ter Jude had the vac­cine against the dis­ease she no­ticed a clear change in him.

“He started re­fus­ing feeds, his nap­pies dried up and he was con­stantly griz­zly, lethar­gic and spent his day flopped in pain in my arms.”

The fol­low­ing day Jude de­te­ri­o­rated and started vom­it­ing so Sonya took him to North Shore Hos­pi­tal.

Jude was mon­i­tored for a cou­ple of hours but doc­tors con­cluded he had a gas­tro bug and the fam­ily were sent home.

For three days Jude wasn’t able to keep a feed down — he was strug­gling and so were his par­ents.

Then, Jude’s con­di­tion took a shock­ing turn and he was sent to the emer­gency room at Star­ship.

Sonya said it was hard to stand back and watch as a group of strangers stepped in.

An im­me­di­ate x-ray re­vealed an ob­struc­tion in Jude’s in­testines, con­firmed by ul­tra­sound.

“This is when we were in­formed that Jude’s suf­fer­ing was a re­sult of the ro­tavirus vac­cine. The live virus mul­ti­plied and spread hard and fast through Jude’s tiny body,” Sonya said.

The cou­ple said they wanted to make it clear they were not an­ti­vac­ci­na­tions, but their ex­pe­ri­ence had given them a new per­spec­tive.

David said their case was the worst pos­si­ble out­come but it hap­pened.

“Just be­cause the ben­e­fits out­weigh the risks, doesn’t mean we should forgo com­mu­ni­cat­ing the risks,” he said.

“In New Zealand we are for­tu­nate to have good health­care avail­able, so it shouldn’t get to the point where we are told ur­gent surgery is the only op­tion.”

David said know­ing the risks would have helped them be more pre­ven­ta­tive.

Vac­ci­na­tor Dr He­len Pe­tousisHar­ris from the Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Ad­vi­sory Cen­tre (IMAC) said she was aware of the case but said it was im­pos­si­ble to know whether the ro­tavirus di­rectly caused Jude’s bowel ob­struc­tion.

“There are mul­ti­ple trig­gers and it’s very dif­fi­cult to know. That baby could have had a tummy bug be­fore get­ting the vac­ci­na­tion with­out any­one know­ing.”

Pe­tousis-Har­ris said she agreed with the par­ents that the very slight in­creased risks should be com­mu­ni­cated be­fore the im­mu­ni­sa­tion, with other risks to watch out for.

“There’s noth­ing you can do that’s ab­so­lute ex­cept to say there is a slight risk . . . but peo­ple need to con­sider the im­mu­ni­sa­tion has pre­vented thou­sands of hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions of gas­tro and in­tus­sus­cep­tion [ bowel ob­struc­tion].”

By the age of 3, nine out of 10 New Zealand chil­dren will have con­tracted ro­tavirus.

Death from ro­tavirus in­fec­tion in New Zealand is rare, but prior to the in­tro­duc­tion of the ro­tavirus vac­cine in July 2014, 1 in 43 cases were hos­pi­talised.

On the IMAC web­site it states the “com­mon re­sponses to the ro­tavirus im­mu­ni­sa­tion in­jec­tion are mild diar­rhoea or vom­it­ing and ab­dom­i­nal pain. Rare re­sponses in­clude in­tus­sus­cep­tion”.

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