Little girl died in cot after flu jab

THE bereaved father of a toddler who died within a day of receiving the seasonal flu vaccine said last night that he could not believe this was coincidental.

David Epapara spoke out after the Queensland Coroner was called in to investigate the little girl's death, which has intensified concern at the risk of side effects from the vaccine to children under five.

Two-year-old Ashley Epapara was found dead in her cot on April 9, the morning after she and her twin sister were inoculated by the family GP in Brisbane.

Mr Epapara told The Australian yesterday that both children had been "perfectly fine" until they received the combined jab for seasonal flu and swine flu.

"We don't know much about what happened at this stage," he said from the family's Mount Gravatt home, on Brisbane's south side.

"But it seems too much of a coincidence for a healthy girl, after having this vaccine, to just pass away. It is shocking."

About 60 babies and small children, mainly in Western Australia, have suffered fits, fever and vomiting after receiving the new seasonal flu vaccine, prompting Australia's chief medical officer last Friday to advise against its being given to under-fives.

The condition of a seriously ill one-year-old girl in Perth improved yesterday, with Princess Margaret Hospital listing her as serious and stable, an advance on her critical state last week.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said yesterday there was no proof that the seasonal vaccine was to blame for baby Ashley's death. "Until now, neither Queensland Health nor the relevant national body had been advised of, or were aware of, any death allegedly related to a 2010 seasonal flu vaccination in Queensland," Dr Young said.

"Queensland Health is working closely with the Coroner on this matter.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family at this time."

The Australian revealed last Saturday that clinical tests were not carried out on the seasonal flu vaccine, even though it was a first-time mix with swine flu.

Mr Epapara said the twins received their shots at about 3pm on April 8 and there was no immediate sign of anything "out of the ordinary".

Ashley's sister, Jaime, started vomiting at about midnight.

Ashley had slept on, seemingly fine. She was found dead in her cot at about 6.30 next morning, when her mother, Nicole, went to check on the girls.

"They have told us it could take six months for all the tests to be done, and then we will have to start the grieving process all over again . . . it's so tragic for us," the young father said.

Mr Epapara said the family accepted there was not enough known about their baby daughter's death to link it to the flu vaccine. However, it was difficult for the family to believe there was no connection when both children were healthy before being vaccinated.

A total of 23 children have been admitted to PMH in Perth since the middle of last month with febrile convulsions feared to be associated with this year's flu shot. A spokeswoman for PMH said there did not appear to have been further cases since vaccinations for under-fives were suspended on Friday. (The Australian, 4.26.2010, Jamie Walker)

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