Two children die after being given polio drops


Patna : Two children, including a two-day-old baby, died after being administered polio vaccines in Bihar, health officials said Tuesday.

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A two-day-old girl died Monday in Munger town, about 150 km from the state capital here, soon after she was given polio drops.

“My daughter died within half an hour after she was given polio drops,” the girl’s father Yamuna Mahto said.

Mahto said he and his wife took the newborn to a government hospital for BCG vaccination but officials forcibly administered polio drops that resulted in her death.

A three-year-old girl in the same town also died Monday after she was given polio drops.

Her father Ramashish Singh said his daughter was administered polio drops by hospital employees although he told them she had been brought there for treatment of cough and cold.

Parents of both children have demanded strong action against the hospital officials.

Reports said several children have fallen ill in Gaya, Patna, Darbhanga and Munger districts after being administered polio drops.

“There was nothing wrong with the drops but we will investigate the matter,” Munger civil surgeon Bhola Prasad Singh said.

Last year, Bihar recorded 244 new polio cases, the highest since the polio immunisation drive was launched in the state nearly a decade ago.

Experts have blamed the rise in polio cases on devastating floods and the failure of the polio eradication campaign in reaching out to marginalized people in far-flung areas.

Bihar recorded 158 polio cases in 1998 when the polio immunisation drive started, and subsequently 123 in 1999, 49 in 2000, 22 in 2001, 121 in 2002, 18 in 2003, 39 in 2004, 30 in 2005 and 61 in 2006.

It was found that even children vaccinated against polio were getting infected with the disease.

Health Minister Chandramohan Rai said: “The rise in polio cases has posed a big challenge for us.”

Most of the new cases were detected in Araria, Kishanganj and Purnea districts, official sources said.

According to official records, half a dozen rounds of immunisation drives as well as special immunisation rounds have been carried out over the past one year.

“Polio remains a big challenge not only for the state and the central governments but also for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) that have been trying hard to stamp out the disease,” said a health department official.

The Unicef and the state health department have identified 28 blocks for an intensified anti-polio campaign aimed at eradicating the disease from Bihar by the end of 2008.

Worried about the rise in polio cases, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar along with legislators and NGOs took a pledge earlier this month to root out polio from Bihar.

India’s annual budget for polio eradication is pegged at over Rs.10 billion but the detection of new cases in Bihar shows the country still has a long way to go before the disease is wiped out completely.