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Investigators find nothing wrong with vaccines given to Peshawar children

April 25, 2019

Photo: AFP

An inquiry team formed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has released a report on issues that sprang up during an immunisation campaign in Peshawar on April 22 and mob violence that followed. 

The inquiry team found that concerns that children had suffered adverse effects after immunisation were unfounded. The children were fine and it has recommended action against school owners, local leaders and people who joined in a mob to set a basic health unit in Peshawar on fire. The incident was “not a medical situation or emergency rather it was a pre-planned conspiracy against a national cause” according to the report.

It found that nine different batches of the polio vaccine were provided to KP and were all provided in good condition to all districts of the province. Three different batches were provided to Peshawar and the same batches sent to Abbottabad, Nowshera, Tank, Kohat and all seven districts of Malakand. The cold chain was maintained and the there was nothing wrong with the vaccines.

A mob attacked and set fire to a basic health unit in Mashokhel to stage a protest. They broke the gate of the clinic as well as its walls and stormed inside. The mob ransacked the property and set it on fire before the police reached the scene and dispersed the mob.

Related: Peshawar hospital set on fire after parents panic over vaccine

The committee, which comprised the additional health secretary, director-general of health services, director of the independent monitoring unit and director of implementation at the director-general of health services’ office, took statements from the directors of four public hospitals in Peshawar, the DHOs of Nowshera and Mardan and 40 other people, like pediatricians, UC medical officers and lady health supervisors.

The report, which was posted on Twitter by the PM’s focal person on polio Babar Bin Atta, said 40,000 children were brought to hospitals, with Lady Reading Hospital receiving the most patients (18,000).

The children were all sent home in stable conditions. Some were kept for observation on the insistence of their parents but not a single child was kept for overnight stay.They all complained of nausea, abdominal discomfort, vomiting and dizziness.

It noted that owners of private schools, religious leaders and local community leaders played a very negative role in spreading rumours, threatening, abusing and harassing health staff, as well as instigating and provoking the public to damage health facilities and government property. Two officials also received threatening phone calls.

These private schools are the Darul Qalam Model School, Iqra Rozatul Atfal School Mera Kachori, Iqra School, Hall Mark School, Peshawar Cambridge School UC Khazana, Muslim Standard School, Oxford School, Pine Breeze School, Crescent School City Homes and Iqra Rozatul Atfal School Jhagra.

It also identified two fake doctors  in UC Umar Bala — Misal Shah and Javed — who spread rumours about the immunisation campaign.

The committee specially mentioned the bravery of Burhan, the principal of Government Primary School Mashopiki, who gave the staff of the BHU Mashokhel protection at his school and protected them from the mob. It has recommended that he be appreciated and considered for a civillian award.

Related: Case registered against two for threatening KP polio worker

The report recommended that a comprehensive strategy be developed to handle such issues in the future and that a strategy needs to be developed to address chronic refusals. It also recommended strict action against the owners of the private schools involved, as well as those who instigated the public to take the law into their own hands and damage government property. They will be proceeded against under the relevant sections of the CrPC and money for the damage will be recovered from the culprits and instigators, noted the report.

It has also suggested approaching the FIA to act against “irresponsible social media operators” who spread rumours and propaganda and the regulation of social media to avoid this in the future.

The committee also called for the regularization of mosque announcements and formulation of SOPs for imams of mosques to avert these incidents.

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