30 children vaccinated with a single syringe in India’s Madhya Pradesh

Health worker denies his fault and says he was giving single syringe by superiors

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 28 July 2022 15:23 BST
Health official admits on camera inoculating 30 students with single syringe

A Covid-19 vaccination booth in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh inoculated 30 students with a single syringe, in a shocking case of violation of worldwide safe injection practices.

Jitendra Rai, a healthcare worker at the vaccination centre, admitted that he used a single syringe to vaccinate 30 students and that he was allegedly ordered by his superiors to use the one syringe that was provided in the batch.

The incident took place in a private Jain Public School in the Sagar district on Wednesday.

An investigation has been initiated into the incident after outraged parents of the students raised the issue with the district immunisation officer after noticing the botched vaccination drive.

A complaint has also been lodged against Mr Rai and an inquiry set up against district immunisation officer Dr Rakesh Roshan.

Following the WHO and Unicef guidance on safe syringe practices, India has been sticking to a protocol to use disposable syringes, meant for single use, since the 1990s to stamp out the spread of diseases like HIV.

The pledge of the country’s health ministry’s mandate of “One needle, one syringe, only one time” was reaffirmed a month before the country launched the Covid-19 vaccination in January 2021.

In a video going viral on social media and played on television news, an anxious Mr Rai can be heard saying that it is not his fault and that he was given only one syringe.

“I was given only one syringe,” Mr Rai said. “The person who delivered [the batch] gave a single syringe.”

When asked if he was aware of single-use syringe mandate, he said: “I was aware, that’s why I asked them if I have to use just one syringe and they said ‘yes’.”

“How is this my fault if I used one syringe?” he asked.

Kshitij Singhal, Sagar district’s official, said they received the complaint of some parents that a single syringe is being used on more than one student.

“Due to the seriousness of the complaint, the chief medical and health officer (CMHO) inspected the site to probe the matter and it was found to be true,” he said.

Mr Rai was reportedly not present at the centre when senior officials reached there for inspection and his phone was also unreachable.

This is not the first time India’s drive to vaccinate the world’s second largest population has hit a stumbling block. Reports have emerged of people reporting vaccination certificates of dead relatives, vaccine mix-up and people receiving certificates without getting doses.

In May last year, at least 20 people were administered India’s homegrown Covaxin doses more than a month after they were given Covishield or AstraZeneca vaccine in Uttar Pradesh. The mix-up was a violation of rules as the Indian government has not approved the mixing of Covid vaccine doses.

In another incident, a doctor and nurse were suspended in Maharashtra’s Thane city after a patient was given an anti-rabies jab instead of a Covid-19 shot, according to media reports.

The country this month hailed its campaign to successfully vaccinate 2.03bn Covid-19 people in 18 months.

According to India’s health ministry, around 98 per cent of the adult population has received at least one dose while 90 per cent have been fully vaccinated with doses.

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