Concerned over the failure of the States to utilise the A (H1N1) influenza vaccine even when the outbreak is at its peak, the Centre has now made the vaccine mandatory for health care workers.
In a letter addressed to the States, the Union Health and Family Welfare Secretary Sujatha Rao has said that as a matter of “great protection and in view of the nature of this epidemic, it is advisable to make this [vaccination] mandatory and ensure that all health care providers are vaccinated without fail…''
“You will also see there is some urgency in the matter as the life of this vaccine is not very long and needs to be utilised well before its expiry date,'' Ms. Rao said in her letter. It is absolutely essential to ensure that in all vulnerable facilities and areas the health care providers do not become carriers of this infection on the one hand and protect themselves from getting H1N1 infection on the other. For this they must get themselves vaccinated.
The Ministry had last year imported 15 lakh doses of H1N1 vaccine from the French vaccine manufacturing company Sanofi Pasteur exclusively for the health care workers, of which 8 lakh doses were sent to the States for use on personnel dealing directly with H1N1 patients.
However, it was later realised that very few States actually utilised the vaccines. Maharashtra, which was the worst affected,received 34,000 doses but used just about 300 doses. Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan too did not use the vaccine on its health care workers.
The utilisation in these States was much less than 50 per cent while smaller States such as Arunachal Pradesh used 97 per cent, Daman (92 per cent), Tamil Nadu (77 per cent), Chhattisgarh (68 per cent), Gujarat (67 per cent) and Punjab (62 per cent).
On the other hand, Orissa utilised only 5 per cent of the stock, Manipur used about one per cent, Uttar Pradesh (17 per cent), and Chandigarh (15 per cent). The utilisation by Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh was also dismal until last month.
Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had already written to the States to ensure utilisation of the H1N1 vaccines supplied to them.
Last week 330 cases of A (H1N1) influenza cases were reported. As many as 17 people died of the virus, including eight each in Kerala and Maharashtra and one in Andhra Pradesh.
This week two influenza deaths were reported from Delhi.