NEW DELHI: An unauthorised vaccination drive in a residential complex of a CRPF unit that provides external security to the Prime Minister's residence and office has raised the hackles of its personnel as expired vaccines were allegedly administered to their children.
The wives of the personnel later complained in writing to CRPF Director General A P Maheshwari, who has ordered an inquiry into the incident, which happened on May 16 in Sector-4, Pushp Vihar where many families of SDG personnel live. Around 50 children were administered polio drops and Easy 6 vaccines. Four of those 50 children were allegedly given Easy 6 vaccinations that had expired in April this year. A CRPF spokesperson said that the CRPF's medical directorate is conducting an inquiry and the "findings of the report will be taken to its logical end as per the facts."
In the letter written to the CPRF DG, some mothers of the children, of all who are said to be under six months, have expressed their anxiety in moving words. The letter, copies of which have also been sent to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, also carries allegations against the official who is said to have ordered the immunisation program.
The wives of serving CRPF personnel have alleged that the said official was pressurising the families of the four children who were given expired polio drops to not speak about the matter and threatened them with dire consequences. The letter is signed off by 'a wife of an upright officer wronged by a helpless system'.
The CRPF unit involved here is a special battalion of CRPF called Special Duty Group (SDG). It comprises around thousand personnel and is deployed for outer cordon duties of the Prime Minister.
According to the spokesperson, CRPF, the immunisation program was "not official".
"Around 50 children of SDG who were due for vaccination could not be administered due to lockdown. Parents of these children have tied up with a clinic and was facilitated into the camp to vaccinate after observing COVID Protocols. It is learnt that 4 doses out of 116 got expired on 30.04.2020," the official stated.
The New Indian Express has in its possession a letter written by an official of Bionic pharmaceuticals, the agency responsible for administering the drugs, to the commandant of the said CRPF unit. In the letter, the official claims that the expired doses were given by mistake to the patients.
"Though it's not harmful or give any side effects to patient, but if anything goes wrong to patient-related to vaccine we will be responsible for this[sic]."
The agency describes itself 'a highly famous organisation of the industry involved in manufacturing and trading a broad assortment of best quality Pharmaceutical products [sic].'
In order to set up a vaccination camp, 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.
CRPF said no vaccination camp was set up but the doctor's services were availed at the request of the families. "No camp was set up and therefore, permission was not sought from local authorities. The SDG commandant facilitated the families to get vaccines for their children but it was not an official immunisation programme," officials of CRPF headquarters said.
They added that the paramilitary force has been in touch with the families and the four children are doing fine.
Affected families also alleged that the private doctor who administered vaccines to the children was related to the commandant who organised the drive. This charged was denied by CRPF and Dr RK Sinha who said he was not related to the commandant.
In his defence, Dr Sinha said, "I got a request from CRPF commandant who said about 50 personnel had been trying to get the vaccination done for their children but were unable to get it done due to the shutdown. I agreed to help in good faith and it is unfortunate that four of the 125 doses supplied by the pharmaceutical distribution company were later found to be expired. This should not have been given but was a mistake on the company's part. However, as a medical practitioner for the last 27 years, I would say that these vaccines, which expired about a fortnight ago, will have no harmful effects but their efficacy may have reduced by about 5 per cent and this can be taken care of in subsequent doses."
The jawans of SDG were also charged Rs 300 for two drops of the polio vaccine, which usually costs around Rs 20 in private hospitals, and Rs 3,000 for each shot of Easy 6 vaccine, families alleged.
Easy 6 vaccine provides immunity against six diseases — diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, meningitis, hepatitis B and polio.
Officials of CRPF headquarters claimed the commandant had first approached CGHS empanelled hospitals/clinics for the vaccination drive but the hospitals refused to provide the service due to the shutdown.
The Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) promises comprehensive medical care to nearly 35 lakh central government employees and pensioners, including personnel of paramilitary forces.
"The cost would not have been an issue had a CGHS empanelled facility agreed to help the families of these personnel but they refused. And because they availed private services, money was charged accordingly," a senior official said.