‘Side effects evident as two girls died'; Brinda Karat seeks thorough probe

CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP Brinda Karat came down heavily on the violation of ethical guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in implementation of the programme for vaccinating young girls against cervical cancer in three mandals of Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh.

Talking to mediapersons on Friday, after visiting six tribal villages in the Bhadrachalam mandal and interacting with two girls who were vaccinated and their parents, she said the account given by the tribal families was different from the government's version.

The government machinery was used to push through a programme which was not part of the public health programme.

Demanding a thorough probe, she pointed out that it was only a “demonstrative project” taken up by an American institution and its side effects were quite evident as two of the girls vaccinated died. Although police claimed that the deaths were cases of suicide, post mortem reports were not made public.

Some 278 girl students were vaccinated in the Lakshminagar tribal welfare hostel. In gross violation of ICMR guidelines, the principal and hostel warden were told that there was no need to get the consent of the parents for administering the vaccine. The children targeted by the NGO implementing the demonstrative project were from the most disadvantaged sections.

Parents misled?

The parents of the children who were covered under the programme were poorly informed. They were given the impression that the vaccination was to enable the children stay healthy and fit. Some 13 girls had side effects like headache, stomachache, drowsiness and giddiness. But the health staff were not linking the problems to the vaccine. She said it was a bad programme since there was no study to confirm a high incidence of cervical cancer in these areas.

Ms. Karat said the multinational that had taken up the programme, just wanted to promote the vaccine in India because of its vast market potential. “We will raise this issue in Parliament,” she said.