A polio vaccination drive was suspended in Bahawalpur after seven children fell ill a few hours after being administered the vaccine. The vaccine was recalled by the Bahawalpur district administration and samples sent to a laboratory for analysis. Two children died a few hours after they given polio drops. The others are in a critical condition at Bahawal Victoria Hospital.
Residents of Jhindani, a settlement near the railway station, said 10 children had fallen ill soon after being vaccinated. Muhammed Nadeem, a resident, said they were taken to Khairpur Tamewali and Hasilpur where one-year-old Sakina and Muhammad Qasim died.
He said two-months-old Ayesha, 10 months-old Irshad, nine-months-old Zeeshan, 18-months-old Rafqa and 18-months-old Hamza were in a critical condition.
Later, when a Health Department team led by the EDO visited the area, some of the residents detained him and chanted slogans against the government. They did not let him leave until an Anayati police team assured them that the matter would be investigated.
Later, DCO Imran Sikandar Baloch in a statement announced that the vaccination drive would remain suspended while the matter was being investigated.
Families of the affected children alleged that they had been given an expired vaccine. “We always cooperate with the polio vaccine teams,” said Muhammad Akhtar, a resident of Jhindani. “They told us that the vaccine would protect our children from polio, but instead, it killed them.”
Talking to newsmen, District Health officer Muhammad Saeed rejected the claim. “The vaccine will expire in 2017,” he said. He said diarrhoea or gastroenteritis were likely the causes of death.
“The Health Department takes the polio vaccination drive very seriously,” he said. He said the vaccine had been sealed and sent to a laboratory for testing.
A representative of the DPO’s office said parents of the affected had demanded that police register cases against the Health Department team.
He said they had been asked to provide post mortem reports of the deceased so that an FIR could be registered. He said none of the parents had approached them again.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2015.