Hardware engineer Bhupendra Thakur died in Sassoon General Hospital on Tuesday night. He succumbed to swine flu. But what makes Thakur's case different from the 367 others who have died since August last year in the city after getting infected with the H1N1 virus is that Thakur had taken the preventive swine flu vaccine a few days before his death.
Thakur was administered the vaccine at Fatima Convent Sahyadri Clinic, and after a few days had to be admitted to Sassoon.
While the family claims Thakur's condition worsened after taking the intra-nasal vaccine and that that may have led to his death, Sassoon hospital authorities said he had already been suffering from swine flu at the time of vaccination and died of the disease a few days later.
"He was admitted to the hospital on August 17, two days after he took the vaccine. The medical history of the patient shows he had symptoms of flu, such as cough and cold for four days prior to taking the vaccine," said Dr Arun Jamkar, dean of Sassoon hospital. "It is clear he died of the disease and not the vaccine."
Thakur's family confirmed that he had symptoms of the flu several days before vaccination.
"My brother had cough and cold for many days prior to taking the vaccine. We blame the doctor giving the vaccine; he should have told my brother that it is not safe for ill people to take it," said Laxmikant, elder brother of the deceased.
While agreeing that the vaccine should not be given to people suffering from respiratory ailments, Dr Jamkar said that it was unlikely that the vaccine can aggravate the illness.
Officials of the Serum Institute of India, which manufactures the intra-nasal H1N1 vaccine, said Thakur should not have been given the vaccine.
"We have made it clear several times that the vaccine should not be given to people suffering from respiratory illness. If people are suffering from consistent or severe cough and cold before vaccination, they should be screened for H1N1 first," said Rajeev Dhere, senior director (vaccines), SII. "In this case, this person had swine flu before taking the vaccine, so naturally he isn't going to get cured of the illness by taking the vaccine."
Dr Prasad Kulkarni, additional medical director at SII, said there had been instances of people contracting swine flu after taking the vaccine.
"There have been instances where people have got the infection after taking the vaccine," said Kulkarni. "We tell people while giving the vaccine that they can get infected up to three weeks after vaccination, as it takes time to develop immunity. And in this case this person had already got the illness."
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