A new set of procedures are to be laid down for the vaccination of children in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This follows the death of four infants after measles vaccination in Tiruvallur off the state capital of Chennai Wednesday last.
The Directorate of Public Health (DPH) is contemplating a model wherein children would be brought to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) in their respective blocks for vaccination instead of transporting the vaccine to the village health centres.
While the district-level officials are skeptical of the feasibility of the model as the sheer numbers involved could make it a formidable task, the government is confident of putting in place necessary transport arrangements for the people.
The DPH has already called upon district-level health officials not to allow anyone other than those authorized for the purpose to handle the vaccines.
"There are instances wherein village health nurses depute midwives and others to fetch the vaccines from the PHCs and this definitely gives room for lapses along the way and possible contamination," an official noted.
As per fresh guidelines issued, only village health nurses should collect the vaccine from the storage point. In places where the vaccine is administered, the medical officer concerned, the sector health nurse and the PHC pharmacist should check the vial's batch number and expiry date.
Besides certain categories of officials have been designated to inspect the vaccine distribution process closely.
The Directorate had also made immunisation training mandatory to all field level staff, a health official said.
In a related development, the central expert committee, deputed by the Union Health Ministry to Tiruvallur has cleared the cold chain system in place, The Hindu
State health officials said the team had given a clean chit to the cold chain equipment used to store and transport the vaccines and found the temperature had been "perfectly" maintained as per WHO specifications.
But then post-mortem reports have confirmed that the children died of anaphylactic shock. This indicates that a foreign protein (e.g. bacteria) had found its way into the vaccine.
Only a laboratory analysis at Kasauli could now confirm the cause of contamination.