Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Brinda Karat Monday asked Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to order a probe into the deaths of four tribal girls given a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination by an NGO in Andhra Pradesh.
In a letter to Azad, Karat said a programme of HPV vaccination was launched in several districts of Andhra Pradesh, exclusively among young, mainly tribal girls from the ages of 10-14 years by an NGO.
‘This is with the approval of the Andhra Pradesh government and the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research),’ she said, terming it an example of a ‘worst practice’ programme which raises many questions.
‘The matter gains urgency because of the deaths of four tribal girls who were vaccinated,’ she said, adding there were reports of ‘fairly widespread side effects’ that the other girls who have been administered the vaccine were suffering from.
‘I do believe the entire programme calls into question the lack of precautions, the lack of monitoring of those who have had the vaccine which directly concerns the safety of our children, and most important of all it proves that such programmes cannot and should not take place outside the public health system.’
‘Who is to be held accountable and responsible? Why were mainly tribal children chosen? What is the quality of ‘informed consent’?’ Karat asked, in her letter.
She said the tribal children could not be exploited multinational companies to promote their vaccines and asked the minister to prevent such mass vaccination programmes which are done outside the public health system.
‘No NGO should be given such permission regardless of the vaccine/drug being administered,’ she said.
‘I request you to urgently intervene to get a full report on the programme. Kindly advise that it should not be implemented in any other areas. Also I request you to set up your own inquiry into the deaths of the tribal girls and also into the side effects of the vaccine on other children so that responsibility can be fixed and action taken,’ Karat demanded.
She also demanded that the minister advise the state government for compensation to the families who have lost their children and assistance to the children suffering side-effects.