Priest 'was aware of risks from vaccine'
An elderly priest who died after he was given the yellow fever vaccine was aware of the higher risk it poses to his age group before he consented to it, an inquest heard.
Fr Gerard Cusack (71), prior of the Holy Trinity Abbey, Kilnacrott in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, died at Beaumont Hospital on March 18 last year, as a result of an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Worldwide, there have been only 60 documented fatalities due to the yellow fever vaccine since the 1930s.
Dublin Coroner's Court had previously heard that Fr Cusack, who was due to travel to Tanzania to inspect works on a church roof paid for through fundraising efforts, was given the vaccine following a consultation with Dr William Yap at the Tropical Medical Bureau on Grafton Street on March 7, 2013.
On the final day of the inquest, Dr Yap gave evidence that he discussed with Fr Cusack the risks associated with the vaccine for people of his age group.
"I am certain I cautioned and warned Fr Cusack of the potential side effects and in the rare instance, a serious adverse life threatening reaction, about one in 100,000. Fr Cusack understood and accepted the risk," he said.
The World Health Organisation lists Tanzania as being "low risk" for yellow fever and the vaccine is generally not recommended, he said, but it "may be considered for a subset of travellers". Fr Cusack planned to visit some rural parts of the country and stay with members of his community with a higher risk of exposure to, or inability to avoid, mosquitoes. "Fr Cusack and I both agreed that his trip was not generally what an average traveller to Tanzania would do," he said.
The post-mortem confirmed the presence of yellow fever in the liver and that the strain of the disease was the same as the one administered to Fr Cusack in the vaccine. The cause of death was acute liver and kidney failure following an adverse reaction to the yellow fever vaccine. Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a narrative verdict outlining the facts.