Vaccination Accidents: Utilize Lessons Learned from Fatalities to Ensure Safety of Inoculations

Safety measures to prevent problems are an essential part of vaccinations against infectious diseases. The frontline medical system must be prepared to respond quickly in the event of a sudden change in a person’s condition after they are vaccinated.

An investigation committee set up by the city of Aisai, Aichi Prefecture, has compiled a report on the case of a woman who died shortly after receiving a COVID-19 inoculation at a mass vaccination center in the city last November.

The report said the woman most likely experienced anaphylactic shock, an acute allergic reaction, and concluded that if medication had been administered quickly, “it cannot be denied that she might have been saved.”

Anaphylactic shock causes breathing difficulties and other symptoms. It can result from drugs or food, and it also refers to an adverse reaction that can occur after a vaccination. Cases of anaphylactic shock have also been reported in connection with other vaccines, such as that for influenza. It is not common, but can be fatal.

Sudden changes in a person’s condition after being vaccinated can occur anywhere. The central and local governments should share information on the results of the investigation and use them as a lesson for the future.

Muscular injections of adrenaline are said to be effective in treating anaphylaxis. The vaccination center in Aisai had adrenaline available, but the doctors and nurses at the center did not think the woman was suffering from anaphylactic shock and so did not use it.

Because anaphylactic shock is a rare condition, few medical personnel are used to responding to it. Shouldn’t the doctors and nurses at the center have received training and had the opportunity to confirm the procedures for using the medication in advance?

About 2,000 fatal cases have been reported in Japan following COVID-19 inoculations, including deaths from causes other than anaphylactic shock. Numerous health problems have also resulted.

In most cases, the cause-and-effect relationship with vaccination is unknown. However, if a claim of health damage is filed, compensation may be approved in certain cases through a government review under the Immunization Law.

Some experts have said there is insufficient information, making it impossible to evaluate fatal cases after COVID-19 vaccinations. It is also believed that autopsies have not been sufficiently performed on people who died after being inoculated against COVID-19. It is important for the central and local governments to examine fatal cases, to devise measures regarding COVID-19 vaccination.

In preparation for the spread of infection in winter, COVID-19 vaccinations are now being administered to all generations. Inoculations against influenza have also begun. Emergency response is equally important when vaccinations are administered at individual medical institutions.

The central government and medical associations need to review vaccination manuals and strengthen safety measures. Preparations for the possible outbreak of new infectious diseases in the future must not be neglected.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2023)