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State denies negligence in vaccine death

2021-11-16  Maria Amakali

State denies negligence in vaccine death
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The health ministry has denied having been negligent in the death of a three-month-old baby, who died after allegedly receiving a vaccine at Black Chain clinic in Katutura nearly six years ago. 

Windhoek resident Victoria Kangala, mother of the victim, Mwaukange Shifiona, is suing the State for N$710 000 for negligently causing the death of her infant on 13 January 2015.

The case is being heard by High Court Judge Orben Sibeya.

The State, through their lawyer Monique Meyer, have argued the medical staff who attended to the infant acted with care and diligence when they administered the vaccine. Meyer indicated the vaccine administered to the baby has been tested, and it complies with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standards and practices on vaccines and medicines. Meyer further argued Kangala gave consent for the baby to be vaccinated after consultations with medical practitioners. 

“The mere fact that a medical treatment was unsuccessful or not as successful as it might have been, or that the treatment administered did not have the desired effect, does not, on its own, necessarily justify the inference of lack of diligence, skill or care on the part of the defendant (state),” explained Meyer.

According to the medical report prepared by professor Clarissa Hildegard Pieper, a registered paediatrician, per the State’s request, the baby died of meningitis and aspiration.

Pieper’s findings are supported by Kangala’s paediatric doctor Steffen Bau.

“According to the information I was supplied with, it is likely that the infant died of a bacteria meningitis. This was compounded by aspiration pneumonia,” said Bau. 

He further noted the infant’s death was not vaccine-related.

Kangala, in the court papers, claims medical practitioners acted negligently when they administered the vaccine to her baby – causing her death.

She claims she took her baby to Black Chain clinic in Katutura on 7 January 2015. However, after returning home in Windhoek’s informal settlement of Okahandja Park, the baby was inconsolably crying and did not want to be breastfed. 

The following morning, Kangala observed the baby’s face was swollen and her eyes were closed.

Kangala rushed the infant to the Katutura Intermediate Hospital, where the baby was admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU). 

The baby passed away on 13 January 2015. 

She claims she never gave consent for the nurses at the clinic to administer the vaccine, and they failed to ensure the vaccine they were administering was safe and would not have an adverse impact to the patient.

According to Kangala, the medical staff at Katutura Hospital failed to timeously give a proper diagnosis and immediately render the necessary care needed to the baby. 

She is now claiming N$500 000 for psychological shock and trauma, N$10 000 for the infant’s burial and N$200 000 for past and future medical expenses in relation to psychological assessment and counselling.

Kangala is being represented by Sharen Zenda from Legal Assistance Centre. 

- mamakali@nepc.com.na


2021-11-16  Maria Amakali

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