300 children jabbed with 'malaria vaccine'

Conmen dupe parents by holding camp in Juhu galli to administer the vaccine that has not even been invented yet.
Malaria, like common cold, has no cure yet, as far as modern medicine is concerned. But a medical camp organised in the city in Juhu Galli in September claimed to have vaccinated children for the vector-borne disease.

In the medical fraternity, it is a well-known fact that malaria vaccination is still an area of intensive research and no effective vaccine has been introduced in clinical practice anywhere in the world. Still at the camp around 300 children from Juhu, Versova and Vile Parle, were inoculated against malaria for a flat Rs 60, claim those who attended it.

Taken for a ride: Farheen Sheikh (left) and Mohammed Zaif in the lap
of his father, Yusuf, took the "vaccine" along with many other children

The sham came to light when Dr Vasant Shenoy, one of the most qualified general practitioners in the country, met a patient who told him how his child was immune to malaria after being injected with the vaccine.

After Yusuf Sheikh, along with his four-year-old son, Mohammed Zaif, visited Shenoy's dispensary in Santacruz (West), Shenoy suggested a blood test for suspected malaria for Zaif. But was taken aback when Yusuf asserted that his son could not have malaria as he had recently been inoculated against the disease.

"It was a rather depressing moment when I was informed that apart from Zaif, hundreds of children up to age 14 were 'vaccinated' against malaria by people who are playing with the health of the innocent," Shenoy said.

Dr Vasant Shenoy shows a patient's certificate for the fake vaccine

"It is clear that this is a game plan of some dubious pharmaceutical company. They are notorious for dumping a large consignment of some vaccine which has either expired or is nearing expiry date at a throwaway price to doctors, who in turn go around organising such camps and mint money in the process."

Citing another instance, he said, "I had a similar case on Monday when one of my patients, Vikas Gadwe from Vile Parle (West), spoke of his relief after his child had supposedly been vaccinated against malaria."

Shenoy further said that the racket extended beyond malaria and even some of the hepatitis and thyroid vaccination camps were nothing more than money-making schemes.

How to spot fakers
The best way to identify a scam is to look at the doctor's registration number issued by the Maharashtra Medical Council. If they have a TR (temporary) number, they are not authorised to hold such a camp.

Dr Avinash Yelikar, vice-president of MMC, said, "TR number is used by interns who are not eligible to practice without the supervision of a qualified doctor or hold vaccination camps, which have to be approved by the local BMC medical officer. If allegations of spurious vaccination camps are proved, the concerned party could lose their licence to practice medicine and also face disciplinary action."

MiD DAY contacted the number on the enrolment card given to one of the patients. A person who identified himself as Rehman answered. Asked about the vaccination camp, he denied having anything to do with it, but confessed that he was not a doctor, only a mere worker. "I used to hold other medical camps before but I have quit my job now," he said.

Dr Thomas Jelki, who has been practicing at Juhu Galli for over 20 years said, "I have educated many patients that malaria vaccine does not exist. Once, some people approached my house to enroll my family members for a malaria vaccination camp, but fled when I told them that I am a doctor," he said.

Playing safe
Interestingly, nowhere does the enrolment card mention that the camp is for malaria vaccine. It only mentions hepatitis and thyroid. "They do this to cover the trail so nobody can pin them down," said Shenoy. And the gullible from the weaker, uneducated sections of the society are lured into the bogus scheme through door-to-door sellers, expounding on the gains of the "vaccine".

Former Andheri Corporator Mohsin Haider, who is known for holding many health camps, said that malaria camps were initiated by private doctors out of goodwill to curb the menace. Informed about the fictitious nature of such a vaccine, he said that now that he was aware of the facts, he would raise this question in the BMC ward office.

Additional Municipal Commissioner (health) Manisha Mhaiskar was unavailable for comment.

Patients speak
Yusuf and his wife Tasleem confirmed to MiD DAY that it was a common practice in Versova for strangers going from door to door and propagating single-day vaccination camps to prevent the malaria bukhar (fever) from gripping children. "We were asked to pay Rs 10 for the form and Rs 50 at the time of the vaccination. We enrolled all our four children for the camp. Then, my son developed an ear condition and was running a fever, so I took him to Dr Shenoy and the entire farce was revealed," said Yusuf. "Even if distilled water was used for injection, I believe the same syringe was used for multiple patients because no sooner did they inject one child than the next was ready to be injected. They didn't have the time to change syringes."

Twelve-year-old Farheen Sheikh, who was also vaccinated at the camp, said that there were hundreds of patients in queue. "The man in the lab coat was apparently in a hurry to finish his job and leave. Each patient was dispatched with a quick prick of the injection needle before the next child in line was summoned," said Fareen.

Shakira Khan had paid the fees of Rs 10 for each of her two sons Yasir and Feroz to be vaccinated for malaria and typhoid fever, but was eventually advised against it by her family doctor, who recognised the hoax.

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