It is an act of incompetence and carelessness – one that could have resulted in death. The fact that it did not, is a stroke of unbelievable luck. In a case of gross negligence that is completely baffling and unexpected from medical professionals, 12 children were administered hand sanitizer drops instead of oral polio vaccine drops in a village in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, an official said on February 1.
The affected children, aged below 5, soon started complaining of discomfort and started vomiting. They were admitted to a government hospital soon, where their condition is stated to be stable after treatment. The district official said that the children were out of danger and a team of doctors was monitoring them, adding that the three healthcare workers will face action for the lapse.
The incident occurred on January 31 at Bhanbora PHC (Primary Health Centre) in Kapsikopri village when the National Pulse Polio vaccination drive for children aged 1-5 years was underway, the official said. The next day, when the polio campaign team was informed about it, they gave polio medication for the second time. The names of the children who have fallen ill are Girma Gedam, Yogashree Gedam, Tanuj Gedam, Harsh Meshram, Vedanta Meshram, Radhika Meshram, Prachi Meshram, Mahi Meshram, Nisha Meshram, Aastha Meshram, and Bhavana Arke.
Yavatmal Zilla Parishad CEO Shrikrishna Panchal said the children were given two drops of sanitizer in place of polio drops. Subsequently, one of the children complained of vomiting and uneasiness, he said. All the children who were given sanitizer drops were administered polio drops and admitted to the Government Medical College in Yavatmal, Mr. Panchal said.
Their condition is stable and they are under observation, he said. He said as per preliminary information, three healthcare workers — a doctor, Anganwadi Sevika, and an ASHA volunteer — were present at the PHC at the time of the incident. “An inquiry is underway and orders will be issued to suspend all the three healthcare workers,” Mr. Panchal said as reported by NDTV.
Panchal added, “This is a big negligence. Polio vaccine bottles are made up of squares with a viral monitor. They have a special color. In such a situation, how could this negligence happen? It will also be seen whether the staff was given training or not?”
Yavatmal’s social activist Kishore Tiwari has said that he will meet Health Minister Rajesh Tope and demand action against the culprits. Meanwhile, an official said the incident came to light only when the village sarpanch checked the drops and found them to be hand sanitizer and not polio doses. After the incident, parents in the area are under fear and have demanded action against the persons responsible for the shocking lapse. Yavatmal Collector M.D. Singh visited the hospital and enquired about the condition of the children, the official said.
It is sheer luck that nothing serious happened to the children. However, that does not mean that the Health Department lets the officials go with just a warning. Exemplary punishment should be given that would ensure that health workers who work in a profession with the stakes stacked high are never careless or inattentive as that could have consequences. The primary task of the Health Department is now to restore the confidence of the villagers in its workers and ensuring the smooth operation of the vaccination program.