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Karachi

March 14, 2018

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Eight officials suspended for negligence that killed four kids

Negligence and errors committed in reconstituting the measles vaccine, failure to follow the standard operating procedure while vaccinating children and later mishandling of the cases by the tertiary-care hospital staff resulted in the deaths of four children in Nawabshah, a health official told The News on Tuesday.

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Sindh Health Director General Dr Muhammad Akhlaque Khan said that so far eight officials of the health department have been suspended, and they include vaccinators, lady health workers, their supervisor and senior doctors.

Doctors and staff of the main tertiary-care hospital in Nawabshah, the People’s Medical University Hospital, may face action as they did not handle the situation in accordance with health protocols, said health officials, adding that an inquiry to determine the negligence of the hospital staff is under way.

Four children died and several others fell sick due to the adverse effects of the measles vaccine a few days ago in Nawabshah, forcing the Sindh Health Department to constitute a seven-member investigation committee.

The inquiry body comprised senior vaccination officer of the World Health Organisation and other officials to look into the children’s deaths and ascertain the actual causes behind them and present their report to the health department.

“The health secretary and I have so far suspended eight health officials – five lower grade employees and three senior officers – including two senior doctors and an education officer of the immunisation department after it was proven that their negligence resulted in the deaths of four children after they were administered the measles vaccine,” said the health DG.

The recent deaths during the measles vaccination campaign not only hampered the routine immunisation efforts in Sindh but also badly affected the polio vaccination drive after parents refused to let their children be administered oral polio vaccine drops during the third polio drive in the province, including six districts of Karachi.

Officials of the Extended Programme on Immunisation claim that the immunisation ratio is between 30 to 40 per cent in Sindh, but paediatricians dealing with diseases of children in the province are of the opinion that less than 20 per cent children get full course of vaccination due to poor planning and strategy and lack of trust in the immunisation staff.

The health DG said the inquiry committee had found that instead of following the standard operating procedure of reconstituting the measles vaccine, a supervisor reconstituted a vial of vaccine at his office and provided it to the lady health worker.

He added that through this vial eight children were vaccinated and they all fell sick, and three of the children died in Nawabshah while the fourth died at a private hospital in Karachi. Dr Khan said the inquiry committee constituted by the health department had found that there was nothing wrong with the measles vaccine as several hundred vials of it were used in Nawabshah, adding that only eight children had fallen ill.

The health official said the adverse reaction during the vaccination drive was a “mishap”, which could have been averted at the People’s Medical University Hospital in Nawabshah, but some doctors on duty also showed negligence.

He added that more officials would have to face action over negligence that resulted in deaths. “The fate of these suspended officials will be determined after their responses to the show-cause notices issued to them. If their replies are found unsatisfactory, they can face strict disciplinary action, which can lead to termination from service.”

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