Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew first thing this morning called a press conference to explain the case. Present to explain what doctors had discovered were leading physicians from the Vachira Phuket Hospital, the main government hospital on the island.
The press conference was called in response to the grandparents of the child making an appeal through the Thai media for financial assistance to help pay for the boy’s medical bills.
In making their plea, the grandparents explained that the boy, Nonthaphat Sae-ong, lost his eyesight after receiving his second Pfizer injection late last year. They also said they had received no support from government agencies.
Nonthaphat began developing serious symptoms nine days after receiving the second vaccine injection on Nov 25 last year. On day 10 after receiving the vaccine, he suffered severe convulsions during which he lapsed into unconsciousness. He was initially rushed to Thalang Hospital, then transferred to Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town.
He spent two weeks in the intensive care unit at Vachira Hospital. When he regained consciousness he could no longer see out of both eyes.
Nonthaphat, his parents and grandparents all believed that the Pfizer vaccine had caused the critical health issues.
However, at the press conference at the new Phuket Provincial Hall this morning, leading doctors explained that was not the case.
Present to support the doctors were Governor Narong along with Thalang District Chief Bancha Thanu-in and Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Weerasak Lorthongkham.
Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Kongkrit Kanjanapaisit said that tests had confirmed that Nonthaphat had a severe bacterial infection in his nasal cavity.
The infection has caused the area around the eyes to swell, leading to the visible inflammation around Nonthapat’s eyes.
Dr Kongkrit did not downplay the seriousness of the infection. In determining the nature of the infection, a lumbar puncture ( also called a spinal tap) had confirmed that Nonthaphat’s cerebrospinal fluid was infected.
The infection may eventually cause permanent loss of eyesight, and may affect parts of the brain, he said.
“There may be some studies suggesting that such infections can be found in 10% of children, but it is not a common infection. It is not surprising that a regular doctor was unable to immediately identify it,” Dr Kongkrit said.
Nonthaphat’s prognosis was difficult to foresee, he added.
“We need to treat the infection quickly and drain the sinuses, then immediately give a course of antibiotics. We also need to administer medications to dissolve clots in order for the blood to flow better. After we have treated it fully, then can we give a better prognosis,” Dr Kongkrit said.
The degree of infection, and depending on how successful treatment is, may leave Nonthaphat with a long-term vision deficiency, Dr Kongkrit noted.
“It is too early to tell. It all depends on how well the treatment goes, the patient, and whether there will be any side effects,” he said.
“But we need to treat this as quickly as possible, otherwise his vision might not recover 100%,” he added.
Dr Pratana Tulyaknik, an ophthalmology specialist in eye surgery and reconstruction procedures, said that Nonthaphat had undergone three procedures to reduce the swelling around his eyes.
One of the procedures required a tube being inserted in the area behind his right eye to drain pus that doctors believed was putting pressure on the optic nerve.
“The medical team therefore consulted the parents because the patient was still a child. The parents said it was necessary to have surgery to remove the pus from the eye socket,” she said.
However, when doctors performed the procedure, they found no pus, but used the tube to disinfect the eye cavity, Dr Pratana explained.
Tests conducted on the eye cavity confirmed it was the same infection found in the spinal cord, she added.
“In this case, not only was the nasopharyngeal area infected, but the brain and the cerebral cortex were also infected,” she said.
Dr Mueanprae Boonlom of the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) said that the case had been referred to the Ministry of Public Health Region 11 office for consideration of whether any compensation could be provided under considering the nature of the case.
However, she maintained, in line with the other doctors’ opinions, that the infection afflicting Nonthaphat was not caused by the vaccine injection.
“It was a coincidence that the two events occurred in a close time frame,” she said.
Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Weerasak Lorthongkham said, “Even though this is caused by bacteria and not from the vaccine, we have submitted this child’s complaint to the committee to determine whether this can be counted as side effects from the vaccine.”