The Cameroon government has neglected a baby who is blinded and paralysed after she was administered the yellow fever vaccine. Her mother says the government has failed to pay the child’s hospital bills after promising to do so.
Parents of a Cameroonian baby girl, called Efosa Grace Iyore, who is now visually impaired and paralysed after taking the Yellow Fever vaccine in April say the government has outright abandoned them.
The baby’s mother told MMI they are stuck in India, where they travelled for medical care, with no finances to continue the child’s treatment. She said the Ministry of Public Health (MINSANTE) has not honoured its commitment to fund the baby’s treatment.
Genesis of the issue
In August, four months after Grace fell ill, MINSANTE’s program for enlarged vaccination (PEV) recommended that she be taken abroad for treatment.
The government was going to disburse funds for the treatment since the ailment resulted from a government-approved vaccine.
However, the expected funds have never reached the baby’s parents. Grace is now, 16 months old — and by the time she was administered the yellow fever vaccine, she was 9 months and 3 weeks old.
The baby’s mother, Ndzelen Bomki Ivoline, told MMI in an exclusive interview that the Ministry of Finance had not released the funds that the Ministry of Public Health had allegedly budgeted for this treatment since June.
“Upon inquiry, we were told that the file for my daughter’s treatment funds is still being processed since June 21, 2023, to date,” Ivoline told us.
Six months ago, her daughter, who is now blind and paralysed, was administered a government-recommended yellow fever vaccine at the privately owned Ebome hospital in Kribi.
The vaccine administered on April 13, 2023, immediately left the child unconscious.
She was rushed to the Gyneco-Obstetric and Paediatric Hospital in Douala for treatment, but the recovery rate was slow.
“After one month of treatment, she was able to regain consciousness. But due to the negative reaction and severity of the vaccine, she lost her sight and was paralyzed due to severe brain damage known as brain atrophy, according to the neurology doctor, Dr. Enyama Dominique,” the baby’s mother recounted.
She said her daughter, who previously had no health problems before taking the vaccine, has never been the same again.
Aside from being paralysed and blind, the child looks severely sick in the pictures that MMI obtained from the mother.
For the past two months, her parents have spent their fortune trying to save their only child amid indifference from the government.
They flew the child to a hospital in India in August after the immunization office in Cameroon gave them the green light.
The assumption was that the Ministry of Public Health had already made advanced payments to the Indian hospital for the treatment.
But that assumption was wrong. The government abandoned the family to carry its own cross.
“My husband has spent over FCFA 3,578,000, equivalent to $5,420 USD,” Ivoline lamented.
“However, the government did not provide us with funds to get accommodation and food. While in India, they have never contacted us or even asked us about the present health condition of the child.
“We have been feeding with our personal money here in India, and we have now run out of funds. This is injustice,” she cried out.
The government only responded to their repeated calls once, with an “insufficient” offer of 3,250 USD (approximately FCFA 2,018,793) on September 14.
This money was only disbursed after “much pressure,” and the family “did not hear from the government again,” they told MMI.
“Our Only Child”
The baby’s parents told MMI that her illness has disheartened them even more because she is their only child.
Saving her is all they want to do now.
“This development has traumatized my family both physically and psychologically. I am a mother with only this baby, and I gave birth to this child through an operation.
“This case is an emergency one that requires all the attention it needs for the expeditious recovery of my daughter and the stability of my family emotionally and financially,” the baby’s mother lamented.
The baby’s illness has left the family heartbroken. But continuing her treatment in India is also impossible because their visas are expiring on October 21.
She said they have no hope that they will hear from the government before they are repatriated to Cameroon.
Repeated attempts to contact MINSANTE have been futile.
Vaccine’s Safety Concerns
The incident could reinforce existing scepticism about the safety of vaccinations in Cameroon.
Earlier this year, the government launched a series of campaigns to immunize mostly children aged 0–5 years for diseases like cholera, polio, and yellow fever, among others.
The yellow fever vaccine, which is a subcutaneous injection, was among them.
The vaccine has been available around the world for over 80 years now and is administered to children aged nine months and older.
Although the vaccine was long deemed safe for use, it might pose problems for people with underlying health problems, according to the American Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
One of the main messages on the vaccination campaign fliers from the Ministry of Public Health was that vaccines are safe and efficient in preventing diseases.
But what happened to this baby in Kribi after she was administered a yellow fever vaccine raises questions about the safety of this vaccine.
Updates: Ivoline has arrived Cameroon with her sick baby, and she told MMI ahe is even more helpless than before. "We are back to Cameroon without even completing this child treatment; she is still blind and paralyzed, and the doctor has said on her report that she still needs a minimum of one year of treatment. We are already frustrated with pain in our hearts. We are in Cameroon now, i almost lost my baby in the plane. She has been crying from India to Cameroon non stop." she told MMI in tears.