KOLKATA, 19 November, 2008: Bengal has been severely hit by a shortage of DPT and Hepatitis-B vaccines. The countrywide shortage for the past six months has upset Universal Immunisation Programmes (UIP) in various states, including West Bengal.
In Kolkata, more than 6,00,000 children, from newborns to the age of five, are under risk. These children, a section of whom are slum-dwellers , cannot afford to buy these vaccines in the open market as these are costly. DPT and Hepatitis-B are priced between Rs 600 and Rs 1,000 but are not readily available for bulk supply.
Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss banned the manufacture of these vaccines six months ago on grounds of 'poor quality control' . There are only three state-run units that manufacture them - Pasteur Institute in Coonoor, the BCG Laboratory in Chennai and Central Research Institute in Kasauli. Since then, the state health department and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation authorities have been urging the Union health minister to resume supply of these vital vaccines.
Even CPM Politburo member Brinda Karat took up the matter with Rajyasabha so that West Bengal could again receive its normal supply of vaccines. KMC doctors expressed apprehension that for want of these vaccines , the entire immunisation programme would get marred. "If we fail to supply these vaccines, particularly the hepatitis vaccine, enteric diseases will spread fast and could assume epidemic proportions ," a KMC health official said on Tuesday.
However, so far, there has been a lukewarm response from the Centre . According to a senior KMC health department official, the Centre had failed to keep its promise. "The Centre had assured us that the supply of DPT and Hepatitis-B vaccines would be normalised from October this year. However, we have received a very negligible quantity of these vaccines till date," the chief municipal health officer Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay said on Tuesday.
Till October 27, West Bengal alone reported a shortage of a whopping 88.49 % in DPT vaccines and 63.64 % in Hepatitis B vaccines . Though DPT doses were sent to the state earlier this month, the shortage, continued to be severe, said a KMC doctor associated with the immunisation programme. "It would also appear that the DPT and DT programmes are virtually scrapped, at least in these states." he said.