The Health department will engage an expert committee to check if there are any quality or efficacy issues related to the anti-rabies vaccine supplied across the State now, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly on Tuesday.
Intervening during the discussion on the adjournment motion moved by P.K. Basheer on the burgeoning population of stray dogs and the frightening increase in human rabies deaths in the State this year, Mr. Vijayan agreed that the instances of people dying of rabies, despite getting vaccinated, has indeed triggered much anxiety and fear amongst the public.
CM’s surprises opposition
While the medical experts in the State had given the scientific explanation on why the anti-rabies vaccine did not protect the dog bite victims from rabies and death, it was necessary that the public fears over the efficacy of anti-rabies vaccination were allayed, Mr. Vijayan said.
By saying so, the Chief Minister, went against the stand of the Health Minister, Veena George, in the House that nothing was amiss with the anti rabies vaccine now available in the State.
He, in effect, surprised the Opposition by acceding to one of their main demands without demur, that the anti-rabies vaccine be subjected to quality checks.
The Opposition Leader V.D. Satheesan, welcomed the pronouncement by the CM and the Opposition for once, chose not to walk out from the House.
Health Minister’s position
Earlier, the Health Minister, Veena George, who replied to the adjournment motion, strongly refuted the allegations of the Opposition that anti-rabies vaccine of suspect quality was being distributed in the State and that Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd., which is responsible for the proper and timely procurement and distribution of quality vaccine for the State, be brought to book.
Ms. George was staunch in her stand that only vaccines which had been quality certified by the Central Drugs Laboratories had been supplied in the State. She pointed out that only four persons out of the 20 persons who died following rabies had been properly vaccinated. One person had been partially vaccinated, while 15 persons had not taken the vaccine after the dog bite as per the rabies post exposure prophylaxis.
She also tried to explain in the House the opinion of public health experts that the vaccinated persons had died because of the nature of the wounds they had sustained (on hands and face, where there are more nerve fibres) and that the vaccine did not have time to act.
Health department’s campaign
The Minister further informed the House that an expert panel had been asked to look into every human rabies death and to submit the report within two weeks.
She also said that the Health department was launching a major campaign in a mission mode to improve public awareness on rabies and that the State will work towards the goal of Elimination of human rabies cases and deaths by 2025. She also informed the House about the multi-pronged approach being adopted by the Health, Animal Husbandry and the Local Self Government department for taking up the animal birth control (ABC) programme and vaccination of all strays and pet dogs in the State.
Increase in stray dog population
Mr. Satheesan said that the animal birth control (ABC) programme in the State was a total failure and that nothing was being done in the State to check the stray dog population in the last two years. The State did not have a single model programme for proper waste management in the State, which had led to the increase in the stray dog population.