TB vaccine unavailability in Pakistan putting children at risk

Islamabad, Feb 11 (IANS) Pakistan’s Punjab province has not been able to acquire tuberculosis (TB) vaccine for two months as a result of which children may be more vulnerable to the disease, the media reported on Thursday.

In a letter sent by the provincial government on Wednesday to the National Health Services (NHS) said that Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) syringes needed for their treatment had not been supplied by the federal Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) for at least a year now, Dawn online reported.

NHS Secretary Ayub Sheikh said the syringes, which were only recently purchased, would be sent to the provinces within a week and were currently being tested in the laboratory to check their quality. However, he denied that there was a shortage of the BCG vaccine.

The BCG vaccine is primarily used to combat tuberculosis. In countries where tuberculosis is common, one dose is recommended for babies, as close to birth as possible.

“This has led to stock out position in the province. The higher authorities have taken strict notice of the current situation because it will make the target children vulnerable to tuberculosis,” the letter said.

An official from the NHS ministry said there was severe shortage of the vaccine in the hospitals across Punjab.

“Every month, around 600,000 vaccines are provided. In case of any further delay, children will become vulnerable to the disease. Other provinces are also facing a similar situation so the ministry should take immediate steps to address the issue,” he said.

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