Only 2 agencies recognised for administration of vaccine in Chennai

Yellow fever vaccination, mandatory for visitors to certain African and American nations, has not been available for the last two months.

At least 200 persons seek to be vaccinated against yellow fever every week at the two centres in Chennai: King Institute of Preventive Medicine, Guindy, and the Port Trust Health Office. These two agencies are the only two recognised centres in the city for administration of the vaccine.

Vaccination against yellow fever is an absolute must for travellers to certain nations in Africa and America. In fact, visas are granted only when a traveller submits his or her vaccination certificate. It is mandatory not just for India, but for several nations across the world which have agreed to follow international norms recommended by the World Health Organisation as part of International Health Regulations for travellers. V. Suresh, COO, Dr. Agarwal’s Group of Hospitals, says the Africa operations of the hospital have been badly affected because of the non-availability of this vaccine. “We have seven hospitals in Africa, and we regularly send medical and paramedical staff for regular operations, as well as for audit purposes. For the last two and half months, we have been unable to send any one, and it has affected our work there significantly,” he says.

The team has desperately tried for the vaccine in Kochi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kolkata. “We have heard rumours that the vaccine may be available in a hospital in Delhi, but have not been able to confirm it,” he says.

With the boom in medical tourism to India from the African nations, a number of patients travelling from those countries to Chennai/India and out of India back home have been put to inconvenience.

In June of 2008, a similar stock out position occurred, lasting for about one and a half months, sources said.

“The stock-out position is not only for Chennai, but for the entire country,” explains Port Health Officer, Sampath. “All port health centres across the country have reported stock-out nearly two months ago. As a result we have had to turn away those who come for the yellow fever vaccination. We get our vaccine directly from the World Health Organisation,” he adds.

The Port Health Office sees an average of 100-200 travellers every week seeking the vaccine.

Representatives at the King Institute also say that stocks have not arrived for the last two months. The centre sees as many as 100 to 125 travellers a week. “We have written to the manufacturer for stocks, and have been reassured that we will get them next week,” a representative said.