Lucknow: A Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Uttar Pradesh's Siddharthnagar district goofed up and gave Covaxin doses to at least 20 people more than a month after they had received their first dose of the Covishield vaccine, triggering fear and panic among villagers in the region.
The shocking incident took place at the PHC in Barhni village where people from the villages of Audahi Kala and adjoining Manpur received Covaxin shots on Friday, May 14. They had all been administered the Covishield vaccine in their first dose on April 2. They ended up being given Covaxin this time around. However, no one has complained of health-related issues after the 'cocktail' of vaccines. Everyone who had been vaccinated were above the age of 55 years and a few among them are 60 years old. The district authority has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.
Accusing the health workers of "carelessness", Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Siddharthnagar Sandeep Chaudhary admitted departmental negligence on their part.
"An inquiry has been initiated against the three health workers those who have erred; an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) has been suspended and the Investigation Officer (IO) will undergo an inquiry too. A doctor, who was in-charge during that time has been transferred. Meanwhile, a team of doctors and health experts visited Audahi Kala village to check on their health. They were found to be in good health and haven’t faced any issues as yet. We will keep monitoring them as well their family members," Chaudhary told Newsclick, adding that antibody investigation was conducted on the people on Thursday and that it would happen again.
When asked why the ANM was suspended, why different “action” was taken against the three and why the PHC head responsible for this gross negligence was not acted upon, the CMO initially declined to comment saying he had already given his statement to the media. "Action has been taken according to government procedure,” he claimed.
Siddharnagar District Magistrate Deepak Meena said that the incident came under the spotlight after complaints were received from some of the recipients that they were administered the wrong vaccine on May 14. The DM has formed a two-member team and sought an inquiry report within three days. "The probe is ongoing and necessary action will be taken soon. The district administration is also monitoring the recipients," he said.
Newsclick also spoke to the vaccine-recipients. Radhe Shyam Shukla (61), a native of Audahi Kala, who has received both the vaccines said he was "fit and healthy" but was also living in fear ever since he came to know that there may be side-effects due to the mix-up.
"I have not faced any side-effects – after getting the second Covaxin dose – nor have any other villagers so far. But yes, I am also human and am feeling scared. Health workers and those appointed at the PHC there are responsible for the negligence," Shukla told Newsclick, adding that out of 200 villagers vaccinated in his village 20 received the wrong second dose.
Shukla, whose 71-year-old aunt, died due to COVID-19 on May 13, added that Audahi Kala was home to about 5,000 people and that the village lacked proper health infrastructure. Despite COVID-19 being rampant in the state, especially in rural areas, not a single doctor or medical expert has visited the area to test people.
Contrary to the CMO's statement that doctors and experts checked up on them and were keeping a watch on them, Shukla said: "I took the second dose on May 14 and the chaos in the village began the very next day but neither a doctor nor anyone from PHC where we were vaccinated visited us. A few doctors came this evening (on Wednesday) after the administration faced a backlash since the incident was reported widely."
Gopal Gupta (58), another recipient who received two different vaccine doses is angry about the negligence by the health workers and also worried about adverse effects.
"I came to know about the mix-up due to the colour. The first was sky blue while the second dose of was white. I got Covishield the first time while the second jab was of Covaxin. The health department has not yet conducted any investigation and people continue to live in fear," he told Newsclick, adding that they were now 'Ram Bharose' (at God's mercy).
Chandravati, another villager, stressed that no PHC staffers had come to inquire about her health nor reached out to her about emergency measures. She said that antibodies tests were not done either. She said she seemed fit at the moment but there was a fear that something might go wrong anytime. She and her family members have been living in fear and are taking precautions.
"When I had gone for the second dose after 40 days, no one checked the certificate given to me to confirm which vaccine I had been administered. Hence, I was given Covaxin instead of Covishield," she told Newsclick.
Commenting on the incident, Sharad Gupta, a senior paediatrician and former president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in Agra, told NewsClick: "There will be no side-effects as studies suggest but of course no antibodies will form in the body either. Their immune system will not be strengthened as much as it would have after a second dose. Now the health authorities should administer another dose, the same as their last dose, and not consider the first one," said Gupta.
Another doctor from KGMU in Lucknow said that scientists have been studying if mixing two different vaccines – Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses – could result in longer-lasting immunity against the deadly virus. However, four months later, there has not been any conclusion yet.
Notably, this is not the first instance of a goof up in Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, three elderly women who had gone to take the vaccine in Shamli, western Uttar Pradesh, were given an anti-rabies injection.
The incident happened at the Community Health Centre (CHC) in Shamli's Kandhala area on April 10. It came to light after the condition of the elderly woman who had received the jab deteriorated and family members complained to the chief medical officer demanding action against the staff.