March 25, 2009 12:02:42 Vietnam (GMT+07)
Vaccination statement sparks debate
Medical workers vaccinate a child at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
Several medical centers in Ho Chi Minh City are asking for a signed declaration that a person agrees to be vaccinated after a doctor has explained its benefits and possible side effects.
This has aroused some public suspicion that the doctors and the centers are trying to avoid any liability, and the Health Ministry has said it has not required this declaration.
One woman from Go Vap District was recently asked to sign the declaration at the city’s Tropical Diseases Institute before being vaccinated against type B viral hepatitis.
“It was strange but I still did it,” she said.
The Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital also requires the declaration from clients outside the National Extended Vaccination Program that deals with compulsory vaccines.
At the city’s Preventive Health Center, patients answer a questionnaire to help the doctor give proper advice before they decide whether or not to sign the declaration.
Nguyen Van Binh from the Health Ministry said the ministry requires no medical center to get this statement of agreement.
“It (the ministry) only requires doctors to examine and provide customers with enough information about the benefits and side effects of the vaccination to help customers make the decision.”
The doctors are also supposed to monitor the vaccinated clients for possible side effects.
Binh said side effects are rare, but “customers should be informed to stay prepared.”
The Children’s Hospital No. 1 doesn’t use the declaration as “our doctors obey the ministry’s regulations,” said hospital director Tang Chi Thuong.
More people have approached the Pasteur Institute to get their vaccinations these days as they are reluctant to sign the declaration at other places.
Doctor Nguyen Nhat Cam of the Hanoi Preventive Health Center said “the signing will make people feel uneasy and doubt the quality of the vaccination.
“What’s more important is that doctors help people know how to take care of themselves and know when to avoid the vaccination.”
According to Dr. Cao Huu Nghia of the Pasteur Institute, “Doctors have to decide if the vaccination is suitable and take responsibility for the decision.”
However, deputy director Tran Tinh Hien of the Tropical Diseases Institute said the declaration doesn’t mean that the customers have to bear the cost of any bad effects on their own.
Hien said the hospital and concerned agencies will investigate the cause of the bad effects, if any, whether the customer lodges a complaint or not.
“The declaration only means that doctors have talked with the patients and they have given the shot with the patients’ agreement.”
Pham Viet Thanh, director of Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital, agreed with Hien.
Meanwhile, the HCMC Preventive Health Center says it introduced the declaration last July after the ministry called for better control over vaccination, said director Nguyen Dac Tho.
The ministry’s call followed the death of two infants in Hanoi and HCMC early last year after they received tetanus shots and vaccinations for diphtheria and whooping cough.
“The customers will choose to sign after they have finished the questionnaire. Thus the process helps select the more suitable candidates for the vaccination,” Tho said.
Nguyen Tran Hien, head of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said people should know that “vaccines are not completely safe and effective.”
In the past three years, 46 people have suffered severe negative side effects caused by vaccinations.
The government and concerned agencies will compensate patients if a vaccination adversely impacts their health or life, Hien said, citing Vietnam’s law on infectious diseases.
Reported by Thanh Tung – Lien Chau