Representational picture

Dr Zahoor Hussain Daraz

This incident has jolted my conscience and is still haunting me. Being a pediatrician, I have a busy schedule so I tender my apologies for reporting it late, however, it is never too late to stop any menace when it comes to the safety of our children. No matter parenting has become comparatively easy with almost all facilities available at the push of the button, be it healthcare or any other basic need. However, this incident will warn us against being casual at times.

Around two years back, my younger sister and her husband visited a private hospital in Srinagar’s Raj Bagh area to get their infant daughter vaccinated.

The couple had assumed it to be the best healthcare facility available in the vicinity. As my brother-in-law got busy over the billing counter paying for immunization and returned with a receipt for the same, what followed was a shocking act of deceit and disregard for human life by one of the nurses on duty for vaccination.

The woman came forward with a vial of vaccine costing around Rs 2500 and showed it to my sister, who too is a doctor, pretending to use the same for vaccination.

However in a flash, she disappeared and returned from nowhere again with a loaded injection of an apparent vaccine and rushed to administer it in haste.

As a concerned mother, my sister asked her to show the emptied vaccine vial first and then go ahead with the injection. This query made the woman hysterical. She clearly seemed overpowered by a feeling of fear and anxiety. Panicked and taken aback, she tried to shrewdly control the situation but my sister was intelligent enough to understand that something was fishy.

My sister then asked her angrily about the vial before administering its contents and in haste, she appeared with a different vial of vaccine. She was caught cheating. She agreed that she had replaced the actual injection with normal saline water. This confession sent shivers down the spine of the mother who watched the woman with perplexity and anger. The lady started apologizing in a typical Kashmiri way acknowledging the offense regretfully. To her own surprise, compassion overtook the anger of my sister and she reluctantly agreed not to complain to the authorities, lest the woman would lose her job and her family would suffer. The woman then left in despair and got back with the actual vaccine vial which was still unsealed. She opened it in front of my sister, loaded it, and then vaccinated my young niece.

So what we simply infer from this incident is that many of our children may be getting a placebo instead of an actual vaccine. The vaccines are then sold somewhere else, making an immense unlawful monetary surplus at the cost of the life and health of our children. This simply means no vaccination and no immunity against deadly diseases which are covered by expanded immunization programs. People preferring private hospitals for additional vaccines should be doubly cautious.  This will render all children at open risk for deadly diseases, so let us unite to stop this unethical practice and a heinous crime. The least we can do is keep vigil during the immunization and ensure proper vaccinations and dosage.

The author is a Consultant Pediatrician, Ministry of Health, Republic of Maldives. Feedback at [email protected]

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