- About Us
- Child Rights
- Our Work
- Contact Us
Chennai: More children in India are dying every year soon after being vaccinated, and the government has no clue why. Union health ministry statistics obtained under the Right to Information Act show that 128 children died in 2010 due to adverse effects after immunization (AEFI). The count has been going up for three years, with 111 such deaths in 2008 and 116 in 2009.
AEFI is a general term that covers various reasons, including bad vaccine quality due to breaks in the cold chain, contamination and complications due to pre-existing conditions of the child. Coincidentally, AEFI deaths in 2008, when the government closed all three PSU vaccine units and began buying from private suppliers, were three times the figure for 2007. TOI was the first to report in March this year that up to 2009, the toll was moving upwards. The 2010 figures show the trend has not changed.
“The deaths went up from 32 in 2007, the last year when the government procured vaccines from PSUs, to 111 in 2008. Out of the 140 crore doses used in the post-PSU period, only 4.25 crore were procured from the Central Research Institute,” said Dr K V Babu, a Kerala physician who filed the RTI.Govt evasive on vaccine deaths: Doc
Chennai: Of the 128 deaths of children in the aftermath of vaccinization last year, reasons for 72 have been categorized under ‘unknown’, 48 as ‘coincidental’, four as due to ‘vaccine reaction’ and two due to ‘injection reaction’ and ‘programme error’. Maharashtra registered the largest number of deaths (28), followed by Uttar Pradesh (18) and Andhra Pradesh (11). Tamil Nadu registered eight deaths.
“We are very concerned,” Union health secretary K Chandramouli said. “But we can’t attribute all such deaths to one reason,” he added. He said “lack of diligence at the field level and carelessness” could be among the reasons. Asked if the vaccines were responsible for the deaths, he replied: “I can’t say that offhand.”
Experts feel the actual number could be even more than what government statistics show. “Many vaccine deaths reported in the media do not find mention in the government statistics,” said Dr Jacob M Puliyel, head of paediatrics at St Stephen’s Hospital, Delhi.
He says the government doesn’t follow the Brighton Collaboration criteria on AEFI deaths adopted by WHO, under which the vaccine should be considered a “probable reason” for death if no other is established.
“The government tries to pass on every death as unrelated to vaccine. It sometimes merely does a culture of the vaccine in question. Just because a vaccine is not found to be contaminated, it doesn’t mean the vaccine has not caused the death,” said Dr Puliyel. There is also an ethical issue. “We don’t know the exact cause of the deaths and the government is doing nothing to find the cause,” said Dr George Thomas, editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. “Whenever there is a vaccination-related death, it’s ethically essential for the government to probe and find the reason.”