Ex-health minister says weak immune systems cause of death in yellow fever shot recipients

Peru’s former health minister said yesterday that preliminary information from international health organizations points to weak immune systems as the cause of death in four people who received yellow fever immunizations in the southern Peruvian town of Ica in early October.

Carlos Vallejos told Agencia Andina “there seemed to be a sensibility problem on the part of the host, the immune systems were extremely handicapped in some of them. This created the condition for the unfortunate results.”

An investigation into the cause of deaths is being carried out by the World Health Organization, the Pan-American Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are scheduled to release the report in February 2008.

The Health Ministry planned on vaccinating 204,000 people in Ica, which was devastated by the magnitude-8 earthquake on Aug. 15. The vaccinations were donated by Brazil and put to use just before the October expiry date printed on the vial labels. A 73-year-old man and a 24-year-old mother of two were among the victims who suffered fatal bouts of fever and diarrhea after receiving the shots.

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