Beware of vaccine rackets operating in Kolkata city that administer cheap antidotes that you don’t need in place of expensive ones prescribed by your doctor. In the process, they not only rob you of your money, but leave with you with a false sense of security against deadly diseases. It’s a miracle that this racket hasn’t claimed a life yet.
On Thursday, Kolkata Police busted the first racket of this kind in Beliaghata when Rita Khanra, a 42-year-old woman, was arrested for injecting antitetanus serum (tetvac in popular terms) instead of an expensive vaccine meant to prevent cervical cancer.
“We have started investigations and are trying to nab the woman’s associates. More than 200 children have already been administered wrong vaccines,” Debatosh Basak, O-C of Beliaghata police station, said. Basak told HT that a number of doctors are involved in the racket.
Khanra admitted that apart from administering vaccines to individuals, she has participated in more than 200 vaccination camps in Kolkata and Howrah.
Anti-Tetanus injection costs Rs. 13, while the vaccines that this racket claims to administer are far more expensive running into thousands of rupees.
On March 24, Subhash Agarwal, a resident of CIT Road in Beliaghata, called a vaccination centre in Howrah to inoculate his wife and daughter against cervical cancer. The next day the centre sent Khanra to administer the vaccine.
“I was not at home when she came to our house. When I returned home in the evening, I found an empty anti-tetanus vaccine ampoule. But the name was darkened with ink and someone wrote with a marker pen that it was an anti-cervical cancer vaccine.
Khanra took Rs. 3,500 for the two vaccines,” Agarwal told HT.
After examining the ampoule, Agarwal explored the market and found out that Gardasil manufactured by Merck and Cervarix manufactured by Glaxo Smithkline costing about Rs. 2,800 and Rs. 3,300 per ampoule are popular brands.
“I informed my friend Gaurav Chirania who used to order vaccines for his family from Khanra for the last two years. On Thursday, Gaurav called the woman and asked her to administer anti-cervical cancer vaccine to his wife and daughter,” Agarwal told HT.
On Thursday afternoon, Khanra reached Gaurav’s house. As soon as she broke open the ampoule, Gaurav and Subhash wanted to see the vaccine. They found that it was a tetvac, the name was darkened with ink.
They took Khanra to Beliaghata police station and lodged a complaint. The police lodged an FIR and arrested Khanra. The police also recovered 10 ampoules of anti-tetanus vaccine along with expired hepatitis vaccines from her bag. The original names of the vaccines were darkened with ink.
“Children who have already been administered wrong vaccines instead of BCG, Triple antigen and others must be taken to the pediatrician and given proper vaccines. Adults who have given wrong vaccines instead of Hepatitis A and B vaccines must visit the doctor. All of them are still exposed to deadly diseases,” Dr Shyamasish Bannerjee of Apollo Gleanagles Hospitals said.