Yesterday evening an autopsy on the body of 12 year young Sabrina Almendarez of Independence, Stann Creek District, is taking place. The young girl died suddenly early on Friday morning at her home after being found motionless by her father. Known as active and healthy, she was given a combination D-T (diphtheria and tetanus) shot, along with nine other children, on November 22 as part of a Ministry of Health initiative; it is commonly given to children in Sabrina’s age range and more than 3,000 between the ages of 10 and 15 received it last year.
However, Sabrina showed symptoms such as high fever and headache and was reportedly found foaming at the mouth and bleeding from the nose. Initial advice to the parents suggested that it could be an extremely rare reaction to the shot, though it is reported that none of the other children given the medication from the same vial showed similar symptoms. Today, attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd, speaking for the Almendarez family, said that the family has drawn no conclusions as to what, if anything, killed their little girl.
“First, the family retained me and there is some clarifications they want to make: The family doesn’t know what caused the death of their daughter; they have never said publicly nor privately that is the shot that killed her. When they were interviewed by certain helpers they asked to give a tracing on what happened in the days before her death. One of the things that they recall is that what happened is that she did received a vaccine for tetanus. We don’t know if that’s the cause of death. As we speak, the post mortem is being conducted by Dr. Hugh Sanchez; the reason the family asked for Dr. Hugh Sanchez is because he’s a pathologist; they want him to take specimens; he is an expert in that area and at the end of the day, they want to know what really killed their child. One of the things that they want to convey to the media and the public at large is that nothing that can be done can bring back their daughter. So, all they want is that peace of mind that they know why she died. If it happens to be as a result of the tetanus injection and some protocol not followed so that the situation of their daughter can be used to ensure what happened there. They are not crying for blood; all they are asking for is disclosure and peace of mind”.
Belize’s sole pathologist, Dr. Hugh Sanchez, is conducting the examination in place of forensic practitioner Dr. Mario Estradabran. Matura-Shepherd says the family asked for, and received that concession from the Ministry, in the interest of finding out what happened to Sabrina. Until the post-mortem results are returned, it is all speculation as to the cause of Sabrina’s demise. But Matura-Shepherd, herself a mother, has some telling advice with regard to vaccinations.
Ms. Audrey Matura: “I give my personal opinion (as a mother) that yes, nothing g to do with this case…we don’t know what is the outcome but I‘ve never…when those papers are sent to my house for my child to receive a vaccine, the reason I’ve never allowed it is because I know when I go to the health services, they ask the parent, is your child allergic to this…has she had a cold recently? Do you know there are basic questions they ask you? After they ask you those questions and after you witness what is happening, then they vaccinate. It’s very sensitive; children don’t know better. Everybody knows that (common sense) when you take a tetanus test, you have to do a little skin test first. That’s the reason why parents should reconsider that. I know that the government wants to help, but on that day, they have to ask parents to come to the school or to have the teachers to stand in as a parent or guardian”.
We understand that Sabrina’s medical file has gone missing from the Southern Regional Hospital where she was pronounced dead and the attorney is asking for authorities to find it. We will continue to follow the story.