Punjab opens second inquiry into use of expired polio vaccine

Updated December 18, 2019

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A team of senior health officials from the Punjab government on Tuesday began an inquiry into the use of an expired polio vaccine and sought advice from the World Health Organisation on how to deal with those affected. — AFP/File
A team of senior health officials from the Punjab government on Tuesday began an inquiry into the use of an expired polio vaccine and sought advice from the World Health Organisation on how to deal with those affected. — AFP/File

RAWALPINDI: A team of senior health officials from the Punjab government on Tuesday began an inquiry into the use of an expired polio vaccine and sought advice from the World Health Organisation on how to deal with those affected.

At least 50 children were administered the expired vaccine in Dhoke Budhal village on Chak Beli Khan Road in Rawalpindi district on Monday, the first day of an ongoing nationwide polio vaccination campaign.

“All the vials of the polio vaccine were retrieved from 15 union councils in the Potohar region and a new vaccine was provided to the areas where the expired vaccine was delivered yesterday,” Deputy Commissioner Saifullah Dogar told Dawn.

He said some vials of the vaccine were opened. The rest remained sealedbecause the expiration date was discovered early during the drive.

Advice sought from WHO on dealing with children administered expired vaccine

He said they are also looking into whether the video of the expired vaccine sharedon social media to sabotagethe polio vaccination campaign. “The police’s help has also been sought to investigate the matter in this regard,” he added.

Mr Dogar said two inquiry teams have been formed to look into the incident.

“The Punjab government also sent its team to check how [the vaccine]was delivered and why the supervisor did not check the date,” he said.

He said he visited the village where the expired vaccine was used and checked on the children.

“The children are safe and no reaction was found,” he said, but added that the WHO’s opinion on how to handle the children was sought. Mr Dogar said the WHO said the expired vaccine was harmless and would not cause any reaction.

New standard operating procedures were issued for the health authority to prevent such an incident in the future, he added.

“The health authority will check the vaccine when it reaches the store and before handing it over to vaccinators, and vaccinators will also check the dates before administering it to children in the coming days,” he said.

District Health Authority Chief Executive Officer Dr Suhail Ahmed said the polio vaccination campaign did not face any difficulties on Tuesday, and vaccinators administered the vaccine to children their respective areas.

There were no refusals reported, he added.

He said the health official who filmed the expired vaccine, which was retrieved from vaccinators, and uploaded the footage and images online, hasbeen arrested.

Dr Ahmed said the investigating team will visit Islamabad, from where the expired vials were delivered to the health authority’s offices.

He said the health department is monitoring the affected children, who are all safe. The vaccination was harmless, but they are in touch with WHO experts in this regard, he added.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2019