The four children identified as Rekha, Sahil, Satyam Kumari and Sania hailed from Bindauva, Rampur Garhi and Padmin Kheda villages of Mohanlalganj, a district 30 km from Lucknow.
All the victims were under two years of age with the youngest being six months old.
“A total of five children had fallen ill. All five were first admitted to a primary health centre in Mohanlalganj and then they were shifted to King George Medical College in Lucknow.
"Four died on the way and one who is admitted to Lucknow hospital is battling for life,” said Dr S.C. Ram, director general, family welfare.
Serious reaction to the vaccine
Since the kids fainted within minutes of getting the injection, the enraged parents allege their death is due to lapse on the part of the officials or a deficiency in the vaccination.
According to eye witnesses, no sooner had the kids got the shot that they exhibited serious reaction to the vaccine.
The children became breathless, began to sweat. They felt faintish and did not recover there after. Their eyes rolled back and some fluid started coming out of their mouth (convulsion like symptoms).
Immunization drive suspended
As soon as the news of the tragedy spread, the immunization drive in entire Mohanlalganj block was called off.
In an attempt to ascertain the cause of death the health officials and district administration reached the spot.
According to experts, death after vaccination occurs either due to expiry of vaccine or if it is contaminated making it unfit for human use.
“It is difficult to ascertain which vaccination had caused the deaths. Only an examination of the samples and post-mortem of the children would reveal the truth. But this is an extremely tragic and unfortunate incident,” Dr A.K. Shukla, the chief medical officer, Lucknow, said.
Furious villagers on a rampage
Following the incident, nearly 600 villagers attacked the primary health workers and held three government doctors hostage.
The furious villagers threatened to burn them alive. It was only after much persuasion by the local police that they were pacified and let the doctors off.
Local Magistrate Anil Sagar stated, “As news of the deaths of the children filtered down to the villages around 2 pm, a team of three doctors who had gone there to investigate the cause of the deaths were held hostage by the villagers in the office of the local health centre.”
Probe ordered by Health Ministry
The Health Ministry has set up a committee to probe the cause of deaths.
Meanwhile, the entire batch of vaccines that might have poisoned the children has been recalled and samples of the vials have been sent for testing.
In addition, the head of the immunization program in Mohanlalganj, Dr K.P. Upadhya, and four nurses who administered the shots have been suspended pending investigation.
"Prima facie it seems that the incident occurred due to spurious vaccine. This is a very serious incident. We will take appropriate action. Compensation of Rs 50,000 will be given to the families," said Anil Sagar.