Two babies aged one-and-a-half months old died and five other babies have been hospitalised after allegedly being administered a faulty vaccination in Karnataka’s Mandya district.
“We have received a vaccine chart and on Thursday morning, we had to get my son a pentavalent vaccine at the Anganwadi centre in our village Chindagiri Doddi. I had taken my son Bhuvan there on Thursday. The ASHA worker had injected the vaccine and we got back home,” said Priyanka, Bhuvan’s mother.
A short while after Bhuvan and Priyanka returned home, the little boy began crying uncontrollably. Priyanka tried feeding him milk but the baby did not stop weeping.
“I don’t know what happened. His face had gotten red and it looked like something was wrong with his eyes. I was scared that something had gone wrong with the injection and I rushed my baby to the Anganwadi. The ASHA worker, who had administered the vaccine said it was only because of the pain that the baby was crying. My baby was exhausted after crying and he fell asleep. This (Saturday) morning, he died. He never woke up. Why did the ASHA worker mislead me? I could have taken him to the hospital had I known something was wrong,” Priyanka says, unable to control her tears.
Soon after, Priyanka realised that five other babies, who were vaccinated in the same village had also fallen ill. The babies were rushed to Mandya’s VIMS Hospital, where they are currently undergoing treatment.
“After my baby’s death, I realised that another baby boy Pruthvi, who was also one-and-a-half-month old had died on Thursday because of the same vaccine. Why did the nurses at the Anganwadi centre not tell us about this? How can they put the lives of babies at risk?” Priyanka alleged.
Parents of the five babies who had been hospitalised, sat down in protest outside VIMS Hospital on Saturday and demanded that the negligent ASHA workers be held responsible and arrested.
Soon after, members of the Karave Yuva Sene, a Kannada outfit, joined the protest and demanded that an FIR be registered against the ASHA workers immediately. They also demanded that the families who lost their babies must be compensated.
As the protest raged on, Mandya Superintendent of Police G Radhika and District Health Officer Mohan visited VIMS Hospital and took stock of the situation.
“I visited the babies and they are out of danger. Their condition is stable. I have assured the parents that they have nothing to worry about. I have ordered a probe into where the vaccines were procured and what went wrong. Preliminary suspicion is that the vaccines were faulty but we cannot conclusively say so until the probe is completed. We are inquiring to see if there are similar cases in other districts too,” DHO Mohan added.
He also said that ASHA workers were only trained to administer vaccines and did not have knowledge about any of the symptoms the babies showed. “However, they should have advised the parents to take their babies to the hospital,” he said.
Though there has been fear against vaccination drives, government and health experts have repeatedly stated these fears are unfounded.
Speaking to TNM, SP Radhika said that a complaint had been filed against the ASHA workers at the Central Police Station.
“Senior health officials have arrived from Bengaluru and are conducting a probe. The babies were administered the vaccine on Thursday under the National Immunisation Programme. We can only say what exactly happened after the senior health officials submit their report and autopsies are performed on the babies,” SP Radhika added.