Three infants died and 15 fell ill, two of them critically, on Saturday, after being administered an anti-measles vaccine in Madhya Pradesh’s Damoh district, 256 km north of Bhopal.
The children who died — Arti Thakur, Gaurav Vishvakarma and Roshni Gond — were between two and 12 months old and residents of Civil Ward number 4 in Damoh town.
Around 20 children in the area were vaccinated by anganwadi (child care) workers Manjulata Bidolia and Uma Parashar on Friday evening. Chief Medical and Health Officer Dr D.K. Shrivastav said the vaccination programme had been suspended pending further investigation.
“Prima facie it seems the protocol for the cold chain for preserving vaccines was broken,” Shrivastav told HT.
Preliminary inquiries revealed that the district hospital’s nurse had supplied the vaccines to the anganwadi workers. She has been booked on charges of negligence and destroying evidence.
“She (the nurse) had apparently carried the vaccines home in a thermos and stored it in refrigerator overnight before bringing it back in thermos and distributing it,” SP D.K. Arya said. “She even disposed of the ampoules to destroy evidence.”
The victims’ parents said the children started frothing at the mouth and nose, and died within 12 hours of being administered the vaccine. “She fell sick a few minutes after being vaccinated,” Arti’s father Munna Thakur said. “After a few hours she started frothing at the mouth, turned blue and died before we could take her to the hospital.”
Initial autopsy reports indicate that “the children died of toxic shock syndrome, an unforeseen complication following measles vaccination”, Shrivastav said.
Samples from the batch of the vaccine were sealed and sent to New Delhi for examination.