At least four children died after falling ill, post-vaccination for measles and Japanese encephalitis, in a village under Patan Block of Palamu district, around 200 km from the Capital, on Sunday. Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has ordered an inquiry into the incident, besides announcing compensation of Rs 1 lakh each for the deceased.
Four other children were admitted to Sadar Hospital in Palamu. However, one of them was referred to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS). Officials said that the condition of all the admitted children was stable and out-of-danger.
According to officials, the vaccine was administered at Loinga village under Patan Block on Saturday afternoon. At least, 11 children were given vaccines at Anganwadi Centre by the ANM (auxiliary nurse mid-wife) Draupadi Pandey, around noon on Saturday.
“The children began having problem like fever, loose motion and vomiting. Their condition worsened through the night, even as parents tried to give them medication. By morning, four of them had died, while four others were admitted to hospital,” said a Palamu district official.
Those who died have been identified as Ujjwal (15 months), son of Upendra Thakur; Sanju Kumari (18 months), daughter of Santosh Yadav; Aryan Kumar (21 months), son of Dhirendra Bhuiyan; and Ayush Kumar (10 months), son of Santosh Yadav alias Sattu; all residents of Loinga village. Officials said that Ayush died in the hospital, while other three kids died at home. Those admitted at Sadar Hospital have been identified as Niranjan Kumar, Chamrita Kumari and Prerna Kumari. One child referred to RIMS has been identified as Prabhat Kumar. All of them are residents of Loinga village.
On Sunday, the villagers also detained the ANM and the Block Development Officer, who had gone there after getting the reports of the deaths.
Following the incident, Principal Secretary (Health) Nidhi Khare constituted an inquiry team to be led by Dr A K Srivastava. The two member team, which would be assisted by doctors from World Health Organisation and UNICEF representatives (who oversee the immunisation programme), would submit its report within seven days. CM Raghubar Das issued a statement saying the deaths were unfortunate and the guilty would not be spared.
Officials have seized the vaccine kit and the register of the ANM. “From the initial inquiry, it has not come to light that the vaccine was past its expiry date. Also, its cold chain too did not seem to have been disrupted. However, we are not arriving at any conclusion. If any negligence on the party of any of the functionaries involved comes to light, action will be taken,” Acting Civil Surgeon (Palamu) Vijay Kumar Singh said. The district authorities have also got post-mortems conducted in the case to ascertain the cause of death. “However, this, in itself, may not be enough. Further examination is required,” said Singh.
Singh said that Thursday and Saturday are designated two days in the week for general immunisation programmes. “On Saturday also, the same vaccine was administered in other areas and anganwadi centres also. No problems have been reported from there. We will be taking expert opinion on what could have gone wrong,” he said.