In Cotabato, DOH looks into cases of persons who died after vaccine shots
DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — The adverse events committee of the Department of Health (DOH) in the Soccsksargen region is looking into the cases of three persons who died in Matalam, Cotabato province, days after they were given shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a provincial official said.
Cotabato Provincial Board Member Philbert Malaluan, head of the Provincial Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Incident Command Post, said it was not established yet if the deaths days apart of the three—Councilor Berlin Laroza, 58, of the village of Kibia in Matalam town, a relative of Laroza, and village health worker Emily Salimbag, 51, had anything to do with the vaccine but their cases had been reported to the adverse events committee of the DOH.
Dr. Eva Rabaya, head of Cotabato’s Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said they have no record of vaccine-related deaths. “But all events (like pain and fever) are reported to the adverse events (committee) so that would include deaths (that) may not be vaccine related.”
Rabaya said one of the fatalities was hypertensive while the others had COVID-19 and their deaths may not be related to the vaccine. “But only the DOH could conduct the causal analysis of their deaths, so, let’s just wait for the results,” she added.
Laroza tested positive for COVID-19 in a rapid diagnostic test administered at Cotabato Provincial Hospital where she was admitted, said the village chair, Ebeneger Fiolog.
Laroza’s son Kenneth told the media in Kidapawan City that his mother started experiencing cough and body weakness after she was given the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 25. She died on April 4 while the family was still waiting for the result of her reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, which turned out positive.
Malaluan said Laroza could have been infected by a relative, the patient from Barangay Salvacion of the town, who also died after getting the vaccine and whose postmortem swab test showed him positive for COVID-19. The patient was asymptomatic.
On March 28, Salimbag also died, three days after she took the vaccine, said her daughter Florelyn Salimbag.
Florelyn, a nursing student, said her mother had a history of chronic hypertension but chose to get vaccinated because she was among the health front-liners in their village.
Both Florelyn and Kenneth said they did not blame the vaccine for the death of their mothers.
“We accepted the fate of our mother,” the younger Salimbag said.
Laroza’s husband still wanted to get vaccinated despite what happened to his wife, according to Malaluan.
Laroza and Salimbag were among the more than 10 health front-liners who received the AstraZeneca vaccine at the rural health unit in Kibia on March 25. The rest of those who took the shots only suffered mild adverse events such as fever a day after their vaccination had quickly recovered, and have returned to work, he added.
Malaluan said the vaccination would continue in the province. “There’s no reason to stop because the benefits [of the vaccines] far outweigh the risks,” he told the Inquirer by phone.
He also said the recent order by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suspending the use of AstraZeneca vaccines for persons below 60, had many people who got the first dose of the vaccine worried since they could no longer complete their shots.
In a statement on April 8, the Department of Health and the FDA suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccines for persons below 60 although it continued to assure the safety and validity of the vaccine. The suspension came after the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency, which listed blood clots among the rare side effects of the vaccine.
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