Immunisation compensation claim dismissed

17 May 2021 | Justice

Marc Springer



WINDHOEK

A mother whose child died following an immunisation at Okuryangava Clinic in Katutura more than five years ago has failed in her quest to sue the health ministry for damages totalling N$718 500.

In a judgement delivered last week, judge Hannelie Prinsloo concluded that the plaintiffs Martha Shikongo and her husband Denny Mwanyekange failed to prove a factual causation between the death of their baby Paulus on 23 January 2015 and the vaccination he received just hours before.

The judge also found that „the mother appreciated and understood the necessity, risks and benefits of having her child vaccinated against Hepatitis B“.

Referring to expert evidence given during the trial by Dr Steffen Bau, the judge determined that a possible reaction to the Hepatitis B vaccination was „so idiosyncratic that no healthcare provider could have foreseen it or could be guilty of negligence if he or she failed to inform a parent of the extremely rare risks“.

Instead, according to Dr Bau, it was likely that Paulus died from Vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Traumatic afternoon

According to Shikongo and Mwanyekange, baby Paulus was crying uncontrollably and gasping for air soon after returning home with his mother after having received the immunisation around 12h15.

They said Paulus had white foam and blood coming out of his eyes, nose and ears before he died.

Paulus‘ parents were demanding compensation for emotional and psychological shock and trauma caused by the death of their child as well as patrimonial damages including funeral expenses and psychological counselling.

The case is one of several similar matters still pending where parents are suing for damages for the alleged wrongful death of their children caused by the improper administration of vaccines.

Sharen Zenda from the Legal Assistance Centre represented Shikongo and Mwanyekange, while Wensie Uakuramenua from the office of the government attorney appeared on behalf of the health ministry.

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