‘Centre should come up with national policy on this kind of medical experimentation'

Close to 70 civil society groups, public health organisations, medical professionals, human rights organisations, women's groups and individuals have voiced their opposition to the nature of the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination ‘projects' carried out in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat by PATH International, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the respective State governments.

They urged the Union government to come up with a national policy on this kind of medical “experimentation” and a pro-people vaccine policy based on public health needs.

In a memorandum submitted to Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the groups pointed out that the efficacy of the vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, was highly suspect and a number of very serious side-effects, including deaths of vaccinated girls, were reported across the world.

As per extensive documentations made after fact-finding missions by local groups in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh (where 14,000 girls in the age group of 10-14 years have been vaccinated with three doses of the HPV vaccine), 120 reported adverse side-effects.

The groups also demanded that the government set up an inquiry into the death of four tribal girls and into the side-effects of the vaccine on affected girls so that responsibility could be fixed and action taken.

All agencies involved in the project need to be held accountable and culpable for any ethical, legal, medical violations that emerge in such an inquiry, they said.

Suggesting that the State governments take immediate action — including providing compensation to the families that have lost their children and to the children suffering from side-effects — the memorandum said those administered the vaccine should be provided proper medical treatment and follow-up.

The government should place in the public domain all documents pertaining to the agreement with the vaccine manufacturers and all other bodies regarding the Centre's plan to introduce the vaccine.

The list of projects planned, proposed, approved and completed should also be made public, as also the names of the agencies involved, donors and proposed locations, and the results of the pilot phase and clinical trials.

Among the signatories to the memorandum are, the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the All-India Democratic Women's Association, All-India Drug Action Network, Sama-Resource Group for Women and Health, Action India, HAQ-Centre for Child Rights, Jagori, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, Delhi Forum, at least 26 groups and individuals from Andhra Pradesh, Mira Shiva, Saheli, and several groups from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi.

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