By Ankur Paliwal
Vaccine trials in a Madhya Pradesh government hospital are making children sick. Culprit: harmful chemicals in high amounts.
Ajay and Pooja Naik lament the day they took their child for a special vaccination programme. Soon after Yathartha’s birth last year, Ajay learned that a government hospital in Indore in Madhya Pradesh was offering vaccines against many diseases, including polio, H1N1 and hepatitis, for free. What he did not know was, pharma firms were conducting vaccine trials in Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya.
Inadvertently, the couple took Yathartha to the hospital. The very next day, he had white patches all over his body. Worried, they rushed back, only to be told to change his soap. The parents complied, but the patches kept growing.
They again approached the hospital. This time the doctors gave him some medicines. It has been eight months and Yathartha is still undergoing treatment. “We were asked to fill up a form. It was in English. They said it is just a formality and my child will be free from diseases,” said Pooja, who has studied till class five. “I do not know what to do now. I do not want my child to grow up with these patches,” said Ajay, a class 10 pass with no employment.
He has spent around Rs 15,000 on his child’s treatment. “I feel cheated. Just because we are poor does not mean they can buy our lives.” Like Yathartha, about 2,000 children have been subjected to vaccine trials in Indore, according to Mahendra Hardia, the state health minister. Many of them have fever, rashes and boils.
After learning about Yathartha, Anand Rai, a public health activist, filed a right to information (RTI) application seeking details of the vaccine trials from Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya. According to the information accessed, the vaccines contained certain chemicals, which were toxic in nature (see ‘Disputed chemicals used in vaccine trials’).