Trust in the System Takes Another Hit After Indian Vaccine Mix-Up

Government to probe why dozens of young children got the wrong jab

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NARINDER NANU / AFP / Getty Images

A Sikh boy receives polio-vaccination drops from a medical volunteer during an immunization drive outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, on Feb. 24, 2013

A government committee in the Indian state of West Bengal will submit its report Tuesday on a medical error that saw the wrong vaccine administered to more than a hundred children under the age of 5.

More than half of the children — who were vaccinated at a camp being held at a primary school about 50 miles from Kolkata — fell ill when they were wrongly injected with Hepatitis B vaccine instead of being given polio drops. Officials were rushed to the area to placate furious parents.

Health experts warn that the mix-up might deter parents from allowing their children to be vaccinated, putting at risk a highly successful public immunization campaign that played a huge part in the declaration of India as a polio-free country in February 2011.

“Such goof-ups cannot be tolerated,” the state’s director of health services B. Satpathy said, ordering a probe into the incident and suspending four health workers.

Systemic failures in large government schemes are already under the spotlight in the wake of July’s tragic food poisoning in Bihar, in which 23 children died after eating a contaminated school lunch.

MORE: How India Fought Polio — and Won