In an act of abject carelessness by the health department staff, at least 12 kids were administered hand sanitiser drops instead of oral polio vaccine drops at a primary health centre at Kapsi-Kopari, an interior village, under Ghatanji tehsil of Yavatmal district of Maharashtra on 31 January afternoon.
Over 2,000 children, ageing 1-5 years, had gathered along with their parents for the polio vaccination programme. After being administered sanitiser drops, the children started vomiting and showed symptoms of uneasiness. All were immediately brought to the paediatric ward of the Government Medical College and Hospital at Yavatmal, Maharashtra.
“The condition of the children is stable and they continue to be under observation,” informed Dr Milind Kamble, dean, Yavatmal Medical College. On the possible repercussions of the oral intake of hand sanitizing liquids, he said that though it is not fatal, it contains around 70% alcohol which may potentially create health complications, especially among children, as in the present instance. “All children are now out of danger,” Dr Kamble said.
Parents of the children alleged that the health workers at the booth were reluctant to shift them to the government-run medical college and hospital and tried to cover up the issue. But they had to inform their seniors after three kids started vomiting.
One P Meshram, a villager from Kapsi-Kopari, Maharashtra, whose two sons were among the 12 affected kids, said, initially, the health workers were casual about the incident. “They called us back from home after some time and administered the polio dose to my children. But they did not reveal the reason behind giving it again. We realized their mistake only when our children started vomiting,” Meshram said.
When four of the twelve children started showing symptoms like vomiting and dizziness, the on-duty officials admitted them to the local public health centre. But, following some pressure by sarpanch Yuvraj Marape and other villagers, they started the process to shift the children aged between 1-5 years to the government-run medical college and hospital at Yavatmal. The kids were finally shifted after 31 January midnight.
Yavatmal district collector M Devender Singh spoke to the parents of the affected children at the medical college on 1 January and ordered an inquiry headed by the Yavatmal Zilla Parishad CEO Shrikrishna Panchal.
Panchal said that he has received a preliminary inquiry report from the district health officer in which he has held that a community health officer, an ASHA worker and an Anganwadi sevika guilty of negligence. They will be suspended immediately and further action will be taken after the probe.