Five children have been killed by the vaccination campaign in Pakistan’s tribal area of Khyber Agency in the past 8 days. The authorities have gone into denial and an “official” statement now says the deaths have no relation to vaccination – same as happens always in cases of vaccine-related deaths.
The first deaths were reported on December 21. About a dozen children in Bara (Khyber Agency) area near KPK province fell seriously sick on receiving vaccination. Conflicting reports appeared in different media regarding the kind of vaccines administered – most claiming polio vaccine was the one that made the kids sick within moments of administering by polio vaccinating teams that go door-to-door along with police escorts and force parents into vaccinating kids.
But a few reports emerged blaming measles vaccination that was also underway concomitant with polio vaccination. Most news sources, especially English-language dailies in the country, did not report on the incident in detail; their reports were confined to statements from officials/authorities who are stakeholders in polio vaccination projects – worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
After a few days, however, three more children were reported dead in a few media outlets with the Urdu-language daily AAJ reporting the first two of those three deaths in both print and online editions. It was one of the few reports that included a statement from a parent who, as the paper cited, requested the polio team not to administer polio drops to his 4-year-old son given the deaths and injuries of the preceding day in the area. But his request was dismissed and the child was administered polio drops soon after which he came down with serious sickness and was rushed to the Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) where he died while under treatment.
On December 27, The Nation reported the death toll from the vaccine-reaction in the area reaching 5. The paper reported that among the three dead was a four-month-old baby girl who had been very healthy until receiving the polio drops after which she started vomiting and breathed her last.
As has happened before in cases of vaccine-reaction illness and death in Pakistan, the authorities deny that vaccination caused the death. It hurts the moneymaking from the vaccination projects, funded with millions each year from abroad. Today’s official denial in the popular daily Dawn is another example of such response from the government. The statement merely says that they did blood tests and found no relation to the vaccination. What the report does not say is what caused the deaths and injuries and, most importantly, how objectivity and independence were ensured in the process of medical testing. And of course the complete medical report is also never made publicly available or granted open and free access to by the public.
Mainstream media worldwide and in Pakistan as well are infamous for suppressing and many a time outright ignoring stories of vaccine-related injuries and deaths as media get their share of the millions in form of advertisements and perks. At the end of the day, the parents mourn for some day, weeks, maybe a few years and the nightmare of state-sponsored killings and injuries continues.