NAWABSHAH: Three minor children died on Sunday and three others were left fighting for their lives after they were administered anti-measles vaccine in Saeedabad locality in old part of the town a day before.

Five-year-old Husnain Brohi, Hania Noor, 6, and nine months old Qamaruddin died at the Peoples Medical University Hospital (PMUH) while Zubair, 5, Jannat, 4, and three-year-old Tania were admitted to the hospital in serious condition.

The children’s parents told journalists that a lady health worker visited their houses on Saturday and administered the vaccine to children without their consent.

They said the lady did not follow any protocols as she took out the vaccine from her purse and injected the doses.

The children’s condition started deteriorating immediately afterwards and they took them to a private hospital but seeing no signs of improvement in their condition they finally shifted them to PMUH, they said.

When they arrived at the hospital no doctor was present there to provide timely succour to the ailing children, they said.

A source in the health department said that officials were least concerned about international standards and protocols. The vaccine might have lost efficacy and it might have produced adverse affects if used after expiry date, he said.

An official who wished not to be named said that it was premature to comment on the deaths as the chance of reaction from the vaccine was one child in 100,000 which was quite negligible.

District Health Officer Mujtaba Memon said that a weeklong drive for vaccination of anti-measles and anti-tetanus for children and mothers was under way which ended on Saturday. He was not in a position to say anything about the cause of deaths at this stage, he said.

Prof Dr Ali Akbar Siyal, head of paediatrics department at PMUH, said that out of three deceased children, two were already dead when they reached the hospital while the third suffered from low blood pressure and was having fits.

Shaheed Benazirabad Commissioner Ghulam Mustafa Phull said that he had formed two committees to probe the deaths. One was to conduct investigation into possible negligence by the staff concerned and the other would be carried out in collaboration with WHO to check the vaccine’s reliability, he said.

He said that he had directed deputy commissioner Nauman Siddiq Latki to make arrangements for shifting them to Karachi. He would also recommend to Sindh government to announce compensation for the families of the deceased children, he said.

Mr Latki, who oversaw shifting of the children to Aga Khan Hospital, said the decision was taken in consultation with doctors because the PMUH had no facility of ICU in paediatrics. The Sindh government Sindh would bear all expenses of treatment whereas Rs50,000 each in cash had also been given to the parents for sundry expenses, he said.

A section of electronic media reported that former president Asif Ali Zardari had asked the officials concerned to conduct an inquiry and provide best treatment to the affected children, he said.

Meanwhile, residents of Saeedabad locality held a demonstration, demanding immediate action against the officials responsible for the death of children.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2018