New Delhi: Expired polio and Easy 6 vaccines were allegedly administered to at least 50 children, aged between one and four months, of jawans posted with the Special Duty Group (SDG) of CRPF, ThePrint has learnt.
The jawans were also charged Rs 300 for two drops of polio vaccine, which usually costs around Rs 20 in private hospitals, and Rs 3,000 for each shot of Easy 6 vaccine at a camp organised on 16 May by an SDG-commandant rank officer at Sector 4 Pushp Vihar in south Delhi. SDG, CRPF, takes care of PM’s security.
Easy 6 vaccine provides immunity against six diseases — diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, meningitis, hepatitis B and polio.
Commandant Harsh Vardhan allegedly roped in a private doctor, Dr R.K. Sinha, for the camp, which was organised without taking permission from the medical directorate of the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) or local authorities.
In order to set up any such camp to administer vaccines, due permission is required from local authorities, which then appoints a vaccine superintendent, who oversees that the medicine is being administered properly and also keeps a data of each child who is given the shot. A report of all these is then sent to the Health Ministry and then to the World Health Organisation. Administration of expired medicines is also punishable under law.
“No proper procedure was followed while setting up this camp and a private doctor was roped in for the same. They not only charged Rs 300 from each family but also administered expired medicines,” a source in the CRPF said.
“A jawan pointed it out when he saw the card given to him in which there was a bar code, which mentioned the expiry of the medicines as ‘April 2020’,” he said.
“Then most jawans checked their cards and found that their kids too were given expired medicines. When they asked the doctor, they were told to return their cards. Most of them were torn, but a few jawans managed to take pictures,” he added.
According to the source, the doctor then apologised and allegedly asked the jawans not to raise the issue with the higher authorities.
CRPF Director General (DG) A.P. Maheshwari was later apprised of the matter, following which he has ordered an inquiry.
Dr Sinha, however, told ThePrint the ‘expired’ vaccines would have “no reaction or side-effects”.
Speaking to ThePrint, a CRPF spokesperson confirmed the immunisation programme was not official. He, however, said the parents of the children knew it was a private camp and not organised by the forces.
‘Will not have any side-effects’
Dr Sinha told ThePrint he had gone to administer the medicines on request and that only 3 to 4 medicines were found to be expired.
“We do not hold these private camps but went there only in good faith. The vaccines too were brought by distributors, who often supply the same to us. Some of those vaccines were later found to be expired. We assured the parents that it will not have any side-effects as in such a case only the potency of the medicine gets lower,” he said.
“It was not intentional. We have also given an undertaking to the parents that nothing will happen to the children. There will no reaction or side-effects. We have also told them these shots will be repeated after a month,” he added.
‘Not all vaccines were expired’
A senior officer of the CRPF said out of 116 doses administered, only four were expired.
“We were also told by doctors that the expired dosages also have an extended time limit until which they can be used and they also do not have any side-effects,” he added.
The officer said around 50 children of jawans posted with the SDG of CRPF were due for vaccination. As they could not be given shots due to the lockdown, the parents of these children tied up with a private clinic and were facilitated into the camp for vaccination after observing Covid protocols, he added.
“These families wanted to get their children the vaccines and the officer concerned had contacted CGHS (central government health scheme), but because of the lockdown, nothing could be arranged. This is when the officer approached the local clinic,” he added.
“The doctor involved is a prestigious pediatrician and was a registrar at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital and Safdarjung hospital,” he added.
The officer also said the SDG commandant tied up with the private doctor only to ensure the children are vaccinated.
“An inquiry has been ordered by CRPF Medical Directorate and a report is likely to be received soon and findings of the report will be taken to its logical end as per the facts,” the CRPF spokesperson told ThePrint.
Wife of a jawan writes to Modi, Amit Shah
Concerned about the health of their children who were administered the ‘expired’ medicines, the wife of a jawan has written a letter on 17 May to the DG, CRPG, marking the same to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, urging them to take appropriate action.
The woman wrote she has been duped by authorities by putting her child’s life in danger.
She also alleged after the jawans at the camp pointed out the expired medicines, the staff there tore the slips pasted on the cards, which were proof of the expired vaccines.
She also claimed the medicine bottles were thrown out of the room and some even burnt to junk evidence.
“Sir, it is my request to kindly look into this matter and get it thoroughly investigated,” she wrote.
The woman also asked in the letter as to why a doctor from the CRPF was not at the camp and why they were asked to hush up the matter when the jawans pointed out the expiry of the vaccines to the doctor.
She also alleged that when the jawans threatened to complain to the higher authorities, they were told they will be transferred to Chhattisgarh.
The woman in her letter also said that while the jawans risk their lives for the security of the PM, their kids are being subjected to this treatment.
When ThePrint asked a second senior CRPF officer to comment on the allegations, he said the inquiry is on and he will comment on the matter once the report comes out.
This report has been updated to reflect that ‘expired’ Easy 6 vaccine was also administered to the children, and to include the version of the doctor who administered the medicines.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.