By Prarthana Mitra
Four years after India was declared as polio-free, traces of the type-two polio virus were found in vials of oral vaccine that were later administered to children in Telangana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
Who is responsible?
The contamination has been traced back to a Ghaziabad-based pharmaceutical company, Biomed Pvt Ltd, which was supplying the vaccines for government-run immunisation programmes alone. The managing director was arrested last Thursday after the Central Drug Regulator filed an FIR. The government also called for the immediate recall of the affected lots and revoked their license to manufacture, sale or distribution until further orders.
What’s the next step?
Traces of the virus were first detected in stool samples of children in UP, years after the Type 2 polio virus had been eradicated worldwide. This has put the government on high alert.
The health ministry has dispatched advisories to observe and keep the affected children under surveillance, in case of warnings signs and symptoms. Additionally, inactivated poliovirus (IPV) injections will also be administered to children in the three states, under the national immunisation programme.
Negligence on a hideous level
Investigation reports from the national capital claim to have found only one contaminated batch containing 50,000 vials until now. However, a health ministry official told HuffPost India that at least two more batches containing 1 lakh vials are suspected to be contaminated with the virus.
This comes as a huge blow to India’s already stunted progress in the public health sector, which experienced a rare shining moment and international praise, when India was officially declared “polio-free” in March 2014. All manufacturers had then been centrally directed to destroy type-2 poliovirus in 2016.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, there was minimal risk of children contracting polio from a tainted batch of vaccines. Nonetheless, the laxity and negligence in quality control and local regulation have always been a sore point, especially since India is considered to be the pharmacy of the world with thousands of factories churning out drugs and vaccines for sale globally.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.