Killer measles vaccine on hold

Thursday, April 24, 2008 (Chennai)

The measles vaccination programme may be suspended across the country. Tamil Nadu has already taken this drastic step after the death of four babies in Thiruvallur on Wednesday.

Ninety lakh measles vaccines procured from Indian Immunological Ltd in Hyderabad have been withdrawn by the Health Ministry.

''The batch is being recalled,'' said Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Health Minister.

Health Ministry has said that vaccines were a trial order from the private, Hyderabad-based company and States that have been supplied by the company were warned.

The Union Health Ministry has rushed two experts and the vaccine has been sent for testing. The official report will take two days but it seems there was some toxin in it.

There are also reports that the medical camps did not have any provisions for emergencies.

The Centre had no choice, 45 lakh doses have already been sent to various states. Of that 20 lakh doses went to Tamil Nadu alone.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu put on hold measles immunisation programme and suspended two nurses after four babies died soon after getting vaccinated for measles.

Sources told NDTV that doctors have concluded that the four children died because of the vaccines.

''Anbumani Ramadoss has told me that the government of India is stopping the measles vaccine programme across the country. Tamil Nadu has already suspended the immunization programme throughout the state,'' said M R K Paneerselvam, Health Minister, Tamil Nadu.

In Tamil Nadu a mother, Arputhamaal, who was blessed with a girl baby twenty years after her marriage, lost her child to the killer vaccine. The ten-month-old died on Wednesday soon after she was administered measles vaccine, in the Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu.

Three other babies too lost their lives after vaccination at their neighbourhood government health centre.

Arputhamaal was inconsolable and visibly shaken after she lost her child.

''I had not taken my daughter to the hospital even once after the birth. And the first time she was taken she died, said Arputhamaal, a mother.

Another mother recounts the horror she faced at the immunization centre.

''She died at the centre itself soon after the vaccine. Froth started coming out of her nose instantly,'' said Suganthy.

The state government has ordered a probe. According to the health officials, the vaccine was supplied by the Central government-owned Human Biological Institute in Hyderabad.

There's a pal of gloom along with simmering tension in the area.

While the government has announced a compensation of Rs three lakh to families, there is no consolation for those who have lost their innocent children.

Ironically, Tamil Nadu is in the forefront of the vaccination movement in the country. The state has successfully eradicated polio and several other diseases.

In January 2008, Tamil Nadu became the first state chosen for implementing the Hepatitis-B vaccination programme.