Staff at Jamalpur primary health centre in Aligarh, UP found Niha Khan, an Auxiliary nurse-midwife (ANW) injecting empty needles and throwing away the loaded syringes without administering the vaccine! When caught red-handed and questioned, she claimed she was ‘in a bad mood’ before nonchalantly walking away!
Incidentally, the vaccination programme at Jamalpur near the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was being provided technical ‘support’ and ‘supervision’ by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Naturally, this did not go down well with the eyewitnesses who probably felt exactly what the rest of the world feels right now. The 29 vaccines that were found in the Bio-hazard waste bin that Khan had wasted that day, might have potentially saved 29 lives. Surprisingly, Dr. Arfeen the lady Doctor in charge of the health centre, even though intimated on the issue, suppressed the matter from higher-ups.
It is not known as to who reported the matter to health officials but the administration swung into action as soon they did. Khan, a contract worker was terminated from service. Dr. Arfeen meanwhile has been transferred back to her original posting in Harduaganj, barely a 10 minutes drive away.
All of the ‘beneficiaries’ of the vaccine that Khan deceived were in the 18-44 age bracket. Unfortunately, their details were updated on the COWIN portal as recipients of the Covid vaccine.
The incident happened on Monday and the chief medical officer (CMO), Aligarh, Dr Bhanu Pratap Kalyani ordered a probe by a committee of additional CMO Dr MK Mathur and deputy CMO Durgesh Kumar to look into this case. The probe team visited the health centre on Tuesday and interrogated the staff, including ANM Khan. The committee submitted its report on Wednesday at the meeting of the District Health Committee. The investigation found both Khan and Dr. Arfeen guilty.
The Agra District Magistrate in Aligarh, Chandra Bhushan Singh has issued a show-cause notice to Khan. Singh also recommended termination of her contractual service. “No such incident would be tolerated and whosoever is found guilty would face the action,” he said.
At a time when such cases should be earning exemplary punishments, there are allegations that the charges filed are for disposing of syringes only. Though there are eyewitnesses, Khan denied the allegations, calling them a conspiracy against her. More serious questions as to when this sly dumping began remain unsolved.
Aligarh is synonymous with Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the heart of Bharat’s Muslim intelligentsia, the university which has given us gems like Sharjeel Usmani. But still, vaccine hesitancy is so high in this town that out of 18 AMU professors who died from Covid, 16 had not taken even their first shot of the vaccine although almost all were in the eligible age group. Such anti-vaxxer sentiments are found to be abnormally high among other Muslim communities such as those in districts of far-away Kerala like Malappuram and Kozhikode.
So were ‘nurse’ Neha Khan and Dr. Arfeen also in the anti-vaxxer camp? Or were the empty injections being given to non-Muslim patients? Or were those unused vaccines being smuggled out and sold on the black market? All these questions need to be probed and answered, so we can judge how deep-rooted the problem is. A mere job termination or transfer is just the superficial first step.
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