MUMBAI: After shortages of drugs for HIV and leprosy, the public health system seems to be low on pneumococcal conjugate vaccine meant for children. State health officials said a tendering delay had led to a disruption in vaccination schedules of tens of thousands of children across the country for over a month.
As per the national immunisation schedule, each child is given three shots of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (for protection against a type of bacterial pneumonia) by the time they turn nine months old; the first two shots are given at six and 14 weeks of age.
For the last month, however, this vaccination schedule has been disrupted across the country; parents have been complaining about returning from public hospitals/centres without getting their children vaccinated. Thane resident Shankar Chavan, whose daughter has turned five months old, has been trying for the second primary shot for a month. “Every time, I get to hear there is no vaccine,’’ he told TOI on Thursday.
State immunisation officer Dr Sachin Desai said the central authorities had told the state that there has been a delay in the tendering process. “This is a nationwide issue. Many of our districts have been hit hard, but central officials have said the matter will be sorted out in another month,’’ he said.
Unlike other districts, Mumbai has stocks for a month, said BMC executive health officer Dr Mangala Gomare. “However, our vans that had gone to pick up the vaccines from the distribution centre today had to return without the vaccine,’’ she said.
Unlike the public sector that is facing a shortage, the private sector has adequate supply. The cost of each shot in the private sector is, however, steep — from Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,500, depending on the manufacturer.
“Every year, India witnesses 25 million births, and that translates into a need for 75 million pneumococcal conjugate vaccines annually in the public health sector,’’ said Dr Nitin Shah of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics. “The private sector barely gives out 10 lakh of this vaccine a year in India.”
Meanwhile, the Kalyan-Dombivli municipal corporation received 5,000 doses of the vaccine on Thursday after a gap of one month.