Polio vaccine vials found dumped outside Bihar hospital

By Imran Khan, IANS,

Patna : Nearly 100 polio vaccine vials were found dumped outside a district hospital in Bihar, raising questions over the conduct of the immunisation drive to eradicate the crippling disease in the state.

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The vaccine vials, due to expire in 2009, were found dumped near a bush adjacent to the district malaria office in the premises of Chapra Sadar district hospital in Saran district, about 90 km from here, hospital officials said Tuesday.

“The vials were found when officials directed the bushes and grass be cleared. It was then that the vials were found scattered there,” they said.

Acting district civil surgeon B.K. Srivastava said that an inquiry will be conducted into the incident and action will be taken against those found guilty. “It is a serious matter and we are looking into it,” he said.

At a time when millions of parents across Bihar are haunted by the fear of their children catching the polio virus, and eagerly participating in the immunisation drive, this incident comes as a major embarrassment for health officials.

However, this is not the first time that such negligence has been seen in the polio immunisation drive.

A few months ago, in Lauthwa village in Madhubani district, liquor bottles were found in an ice box used to store polio vaccines when a health department official opened it to take out a vial to administer polio drops to children.

Angry villagers drove the health workers away.

Early this year, it was reported that some children between eight and 10 years had been recruited to administer polio vaccine drops, but instead of using ice boxes, the children were using their own pockets to store the temperature-sensitive vaccines.

The battle against polio is far from over in Bihar, which has recorded the second highest incidence of the disease in India in 2008 after neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

Official sources in the health department said Monday that the state has recorded 230 new polio cases till the third week of December 2008, one of the highest since the polio immunisation drive was launched in the state nearly a decade ago.

India is one of the four countries in the world where polio is endemic. According to the Global Polio Eradication Imitative, Nigeria reported 728 polio cases this year, with India at second place, followed by Pakistan (81) and Afghanistan.