A child at Arambagh sub-divisional hospital after being administered the wrong vaccine
Chinsurah, Sept. 15: Children at a health department camp in Hooghly were mistakenly given the hepatitis B vaccine instead of polio drops today, following which 130 of them fell ill.
According to parents who brought their children to the camp in Goghat, the children began vomiting and seemed to have difficulties in breathing after the vaccine was administered.
The vaccine was give to children up to five years.
The chief medical officer of health in the district said the supervisor of polio camps in Goghat, Moyna Patra, had been suspended. The three health workers at the camp have been suspended too.
A district health official said Moyna Patra, a nurse, did not herself collect the packet of vaccines from the local Bengai gram panchayat.
“She sent her husband Kinkar Patra to get the vaccines,” the official said. Kinkar has a medicine shop in Bankura.
Villagers said Moyna Patra had told them she did not collect the vaccines as she was not feeling well.
Apurba Ghosh, the director of the Institute of Child Health in Calcutta, said: “Oral administration of the hepatitis B vaccine does not have any side effect. But that is beside the point. What is more important is that the health workers should have been more careful.”
“When we administer such vaccines, we also ask parents to see the vial and the vaccine name and expiry date,” Ghosh added.
Madhumita Hazra, a homemaker who brought her two-year-old son to the camp at a school in Khatul village, said he started vomiting “immediately after the vaccine was given”.
“The son of another woman from our village who was in the queue behind us also started vomiting. Very soon, many children showed similar symptoms and started crying,” Madhumita said.
Within hours of the vaccination starting at 9am, more than 100 children fell ill, their guardians said. Panic gripped the village and those in the queue dispersed. The vaccination was stopped.
As soon as the news spread, at least 1,000 villagers gathered at Rajmohan Block Primary School and arranged for ambulances to take the children to Arambagh sub-divisional hospital.
“The children showed symptoms of breathing problem and were vomiting. We immediately put them on saline drip. Some kids had to be given oxygen,” the superintendent of the hospital, Nirmalya Roy, said.
Roy said that often children vomited after being administered vaccines. “Oral administering of any vaccine often results in vomiting. It has been noticed in case of polio drops, too. It may be that some children became breathless because of vomiting. All the children were administered the polio vaccine at the hospital and released this evening”, he added.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered a probe into the incident.
The director of health services, Biswaranjan Satpathy, said: “It is surprising how the health workers administering the vaccine could make the mistake since the ampoules of the hepatitis B vaccine look different from polio vaccine containers.”
Satpathy added that the hepatitis B vaccine “does not have any harmful effect on children”.
A paediatrician at Midnapore Medical College Hospital said oral administering of the hepatitis B vaccine was not harmful. “It has practically no side effects. The polio vaccine, sometimes, causes diarrhoea,” he said.
Villagers locked up the three health employees and an ICDS worker inside the Goghat camp for two hours.
Block medical officer Durgaprasanna Bannerjee and block development officer of Goghat-II Shibapriya Dasgupta rushed to the health camp and tried to pacify the mob with folded hands. “They did not listen and we had to call police,” Dasgupta said.
A police team persuaded the villagers to disperse. The police escorted the health and ICDS workers to the block hospital. The chief medical officer of health of Hooghly, Tanima Mondal, questioned them at the hospital.