Vaccines have faced heavy scrutiny in India in recent months, with the safety of pentavalent jabs and ethics of a PATH project in question. Critics were given more ammunition this week when a mix-up in West Bengal resulted in more than 100 children receiving the wrong vaccine.
State health officials were supposed to administer oral polio drops, but mistakenly gave the kids hepatitis B vaccines instead. The parent of a 14-month old child noticed the error, but only after 114 kids had been given the wrong vaccine. Parents later complained their kids were vomiting and sweating, leading to 67 children being taken to hospital. The Times of India reports 18 children were soon discharged, with the rest being described as 'fine' but being kept for observation nonetheless.
West Bengal director of health services B. Satpathy suspended four health workers for their role in the error. "Such goof-ups cannot be tolerated," Time quotes Satpathy. Satpathy and doctors said the hepatitis B vaccine will not cause the children harm, but fear the incident will dent trust in the healthcare system. In an unrelated incident, a baby died two hours after receiving the polio vaccine. A post mortem later found the baby died of a head injury, not the vaccine, but the incident has still provoked criticism of the healthcare system. The local chief medical officer accused the hospital of being "run by quacks," The Indian Express reports.
The incidents marred Pulse Polio Day, an initiative India began in 1995 to eradicate polio. It is now 30 months since the last case in India, a milestone praised by the World Health Organization (WHO). "This country is moving in a big way to promote better health to their women and to their children," WHO director general Margaret Chan said.