Bid to improve immunisation coverage derailed
An acute shortage of primary vaccines in the district is threatening to undo field-level efforts to improve the immunisation coverage.
Reports from the field indicate that hepatitis B and oral polio vaccines are unavailable, while the DPT and the Japanese encephalitis vaccines are in short supply in some parts of the district.
Health officials say vaccine supply in the district is in dire straits and the buffer stocks have almost been exhausted in the past two months. While efforts are on to improve routine immunisation, the shortage of vaccines is making it difficult to hold immunisation camps.
The City Corporation holds nearly 40 immunisation camps a month, covering 300 to 500 children.
“We cannot turn away people from medical camps conducted specifically to provide immunisation because they probably will not be willing to come another day for the vaccination. A break in routine immunisation can have a long-term impact,” a health official says.
Age-specific vaccines, such as the oral polio vaccine, cannot be delayed, and if the time schedule is not followed, there is no guarantee that an infant will not get polio. If the health authorities do not resolve the current crisis, people will have to be turned away from immunisation camps from next week, he says.
Senior health officials say vaccine supply from the Union Health Ministry has been erratic since 2006.
“Earlier, we used to have plenty of buffer stocks of all vaccines. But from 2006 onwards, the vaccine supply from the Centre has not been systematic. There may be issues of distribution in the districts, but there is no State-wide shortage,” a senior official at the Directorate of Health Services said.
Vaccines were stocked in the regional stores in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, and Kozhikode, each catering to a set of districts. The District Medical Officer is in charge of the distribution of vaccines from the regional stores.
Officials point out that there is a severe shortage of hepatitis B vaccine across the country, because of which the Centre has not been able to extend hepatitis B vaccination under routine immunisation in all States this year, as had been planned earlier.
Public health experts feel that the shortage of vaccines is indisputably linked to the closure of the three premier public-sector vaccine manufacturing units in 2008 for not adhering to good manufacturing practice norms.