ISLAMABAD– Lives of a million newborn babies in the country are at stake as the federal Expanded Programme on Immunisation’s (EPI) funds for procuring more vaccines under the programme have been reportedly exhausted.
The federal EPI, at present, has BCG and Tetanus toxoid vaccine in stock for a few months, syringes used for the primary BCG vaccination of newborns only for a few days and is short of funds to procure them to meet the requirement, the sources said, adding that the BCG vaccine is administrated immediately after birth to prevent tuberculosis.
Moreover, Sindh which is also facing acute shortage of syringes used for the BCG vaccination for the last two months has requested the federal EPI to send the required quantity. Additional Director EPI Sindh, Zahoor Baloch said that they are making all efforts to overcome the shortage of the syringes used for BCG vaccination by utilizing available stock, but it would not help for long.
“We have written a letter to the federal EPI to send the required quantity of syringes, but so far have not heard from them,” he complained.
He said there are possibilities that in many districts many newborn babies have not been vaccinated against TB because of the unavailability of the syringes.
A senior official at EPI, on the condition of anonymity, said the reason behind this situation is negligence and ignorance of the government who remained focused on eradicating polio and have put this routine immunization on the back burner.
He said in the previous year the government had not procured 7 per cent of the total required vaccines it had to, before the international partners supplied the remaining 93pc vaccines. “By doing this the government is playing with the lives of innocent children who are at an increased risk of losing their lives from vaccine-preventable diseases,” he feared.
Confirming that federal EPI is currently left with BCG and tetanus toxoid vaccines only enough to last a few months and all the provinces are facing their shortage, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination’s (NHSRC) Secretary Mohammad Ayub Sheikh said a revised PC-1 of EPI, amounting to Rs26.9 billion, has been sent to Ecnec for approval. “The moment funds are released, government will procure all the required vaccines,” he added.