Investigation begins into deaths of infants after MMR vaccination in Belagavi

Health Department officials have begun an investigation into the death of three infants allegedly owing to septic administration of the measles-mumps-rubella(MMR) vaccine at Ramdurg in Belagavi district.

Of the five children of Ramdurg taluk who developed sepsis, three died and two are under treatment in Belagavi institute of Medical Sciences.

On the instructions of K. Sudhakar, Health Minister, the Commissioner (Health) on Monday suspended the auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) and the jurisdictional pharmacist, pending further inquiry, department sources said.

Preliminary investigation has pointed out that the paramedical staff in charge of vaccination did not follow aseptic measures. It shows that the cold chain was not maintained somewhere, according to sources.

“It seems that M. Salma, the ANM, administered the vaccine two days after she collected it from the primary health centre. She collected the vials on January 10, but gave them on the 11th and the 12th. The cold chain was broken as she preferred to keep the unused vials in a hotel’s refrigerator instead of returning them to the hospital’s cold storage,’’ a Health Department officer said.

This could have happened owing to several reasons. One, the doctors and the paramedical staff in village hospitals do not stay in the same villages. They go to the PHC, collect the vials, but do not come back to the PHC to return them. This is clearly against the vaccination protocol, where each vial is tested for temperature, before and after the delivery and the return.

Secondly, most villages have power only for 5-6 hours a day. This affects the cold chain. Only taluk hospitals and community health centres have generators and uninterrupted power supply systems. Most PHCs lack them. What is more, the huge staff scarcity forces the department to appoint just one pharmacist for 3-4 PHCs. Of the 506 gram panchayats, there are only 120 PHCs. The 40 pharmacists in the district take charge of these 120 PHCs. These further complicate issues, said a department officer.

A member of the district pharmacist association argued that the Government was being unfair in keeping the pharmacist under suspension.

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Printable version | May 24, 2022 3:14:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/investigation-begins-into-deaths-of-infants-after-mmr-vaccination-in-belagavi/article38282873.ece