When Laura Alonso saw the clear liquid on her daughter’s arm, something just didn’t feel right.
She had just taken the two-year-old for a chickenpox vaccination at an outpatient clinic in Santurtzi, a municipality in Spain’s Basque Country.
There were other red flags too at the centre last October: the speed at which the nurse administered the jabs also didn’t seem normal.
“It was impossible to administer vaccines at that speed, there was no time to get the dose in,” Alonso, who coincidentally also works as a nurse, told Euronews.
Months later, she received a call from Osakidetza, the Basque health service. Following complaints from several parents, they had decided to carry out a study to check the degree of immunity of the children who had been vaccinated at the clinic.
They started testing about 50 children who had appointments at the centre, dividing them into two groups based on which nurse saw them.
They found that most of the ones vaccinated by one particular nurse, who has not been named, were not properly immunised.
This included Alonso’s daughter, who was not protected against chickenpox, as she suspected.
Now, local authorities have opened a group litigation against the nurse, who will testify in court accused of faking it when she was supposed to be giving routine vaccinations to children.
Additionally, 42 families who have filed a joint lawsuit for alleged misappropriation of public funds and falsification of documents. According to the families’ lawyer, they are considering extending the lawsuit to include crimes against public health.
The regional health authority has confirmed that the nurse is on leave and the investigation has been extended to another 400 children.
Vaccinate all children again
The lawyer representing 42 families involved in the court case tells Euronews that the nurse had acted oddly.
“Parents felt the nurse was behaving strangely. She tried to hide when administering the vaccines, she did it very quickly and threw the syringe into the bin with the dose inside”, Aitzol Asla, tells Euronews.
Laura Comonte says she was surprised by some of the anti-vaccine comments made by the nurse when she took her 18-month-old for a routine six-in-one hexavalent vaccine.
This jab is one of the most important in the childhood immunisation schedule, and provides immunity for potentially serious diseases like meningitis, diphtheria, tetanus and hepatitis B, among others.
“She even told me that the best vaccine against tetanus is for the child to walk on grass barefoot,” says Comonte.
She also recalls that, around the same time, there was an outbreak of meningitis in the kindergarten her son attends, although fortunately he did not fall ill.
Authorities have decided to administer an additional hexavalent dose to the 400 children who the nurse supposedly vaccinated.
“Of the seven vaccinations this woman had given my daughter, they had to repeat all of them,” says Alonso.
Parents are worried that the children may now be over-vaccinated, “although we have been told that this is not a bad thing,” says the mother.
The health authority did not respond to a request for comment.
Families call for debarment
The nurse is now accused of incorrectly using the material supplied by the Basque Health Service, which were bought with public funds but not used for their intended purpose.
The families’ lawyer says that he expects more more families could join the law suit in the coming week.
Parents, however, will have to wait a little longer for the case to be resolved. The nurse was initially supposed to appear before the judge on 4 May, but it is expected the whole process will be delayed after the nurse asked to be present during all 42 testimonies of those affected.
“The fundamental evidence we have against her is the regional health authorities’ acknowledgement that the children did not have antibodies from the vaccines the nurse had allegedly administered,” the families’ lawyer says.
“We are considering adding an allegation of crime against public health to the lawsuit, although first we need to know the exact number of the children affected by this woman’s non-vaccination,” he adds.
The families aim to have the nurse struck off, so that she can no longer work in healthcare and administer vaccinations.