Vaccine for cancer tested on poor tribal girls?


First Published : 21 Apr 2010
BHADRACHALAM: Thirteen-Year-Old Sode Sayamma, a healthy girl, was administered the HPV Gardasil vaccine in August last. Days later, she died.
Her parents Sode Mudiraju and Maremma weren’t even aware of the vaccination. The Class IX girl, a student of the Narsingpet Ashram School in Kunavaram mandal, Khammam district, died an ‘‘unnatural death’’ or so her parents thought.

Same was the case with Kudumula Sarita, an eighth class student of Lakshminagaram Ashram School. A resident of Anjipaka village in Dummugudem mandal, she died after the first dose of the vaccine. Her parents Venkatamma and Nageswara Rao too alleged that they were not informed of the vaccination. The vaccine was administered ostensibly to prevent the girls from contracting cervical cancer.

According to All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), three girls in all died after administration of the vaccine.The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Indian Council of Medical Research, Path International Volutnary Organisation and the Andhra Pradesh Government had taken up the HPV vaccination programme in Agency areas of Bhadrachalam, Dummugudem and Tirumalayapalem mandals in the district as a demonstration project on July 9, 2009.

The Health and Family Welfare Department had released pamphlets to campaign for the programme but apparently the officials had not taken the trouble to take it to the people.

However, they seemed to have taken enough care to get a no objection undertaking from the parents of the girls without actually telling them what it meant.
The AIDWA alleged that the vaccine, administered to thousands of girls, had not only resulted in three deaths but had also landed several girls in hospital.
AIDWA Bhadrachalam divisional secretary Marlapati Renuka said: ‘‘The parents of the three girls were not even given the post-mortem report.
The agencies that took part in the vaccination programme are trying to project the deaths as suicides.’’ Dummugudem ZPTC member K Chilakamma said no official had visited the bereaved families let alone pay compensation. CPM politburo member Brinda Karat visited the Agency areas in Khammam district on April 2 and called on the family members of the ill-fated tribal girls. Several local tribal leaders have also expressed concern over the callous attitude of the officials and have been demanding an ex gratia payment for the kin of the victims. Former MLA Sunnam Rajaiah of Bhadrachalam too demanded ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased.
Reacting to the reported deaths, the Central Government had directed the authorities to cancel the vaccination programme in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Replying to a debate on the issue in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare S Gandhiselvan advised the states not to carry out the vaccination programme.
An admission of guilt perhaps?

Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.