Vaccine-nation: ‘Globally-supported company is funding fatal polio shots’

Published: November 17, 2011

PM inspection committee condemns vaccines funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation. DESIGN: AMNA IQBAL

ISLAMABAD: 

A government inquiry has found that polio vaccines for infants funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation are causing deaths and disabilities in regional countries including Pakistan.

The startling revelation is part of an inquiry report prepared by the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission (PMIC) on the working of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI). The PMIC, headed by Malik Amjad Noon, has recommended that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani immediately suspend the administration of all types of vaccines funded by the GAVI.

The report, exclusively available to The Express Tribune, also suggested suspending the mass polio campaign, including the administration of pentavalent vaccines – a mixture of five vaccines to cure five diseases – until an inquiry finds these vaccines safe for children. In view of these findings, the monitoring report recommends, “there is a need to carry out detailed study and that should be submitted to parliament to seek approval for the EPI”.

The cost of the existing five-year phase of the EPI is Rs26 billion, including Rs2.4 billion funded by GAVI for the supply of new and under-used vaccines. The project was launched in 2010 to reduce morbidity and mortality resulting from eight diseases common to children. However, the report states, in 2010 as many as 5,417 cases of these diseases were reported.

The commission also recommended launching an inquiry to find out facts leading to the agreement with GAVI without examining the safety of the vaccines. The report also established that the GAVI-funded vaccines are not only causing deaths in many countries but are also very expensive.

There have been reports of deaths of a number of children and occurrence of other side-effects soon after the vaccination is administered in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Japan.

Geneva-based officials of GAVI, Jeffrey Rowland and Dan Thomas, were contacted by e-mail but they did not respond.

The report stated that five deaths have been reported in Japan this year soon after the vaccination was administered while 25 serious adverse reactions, including five deaths, were reported in Sri Lanka in 2008. Consequently, the vaccine was withdrawn. Bhutan also withdrew the vaccines after the deaths of children. The Association of Parents of Disabled Children from Bosnia and Herzegovina filed criminal charges after the GAVI-funded vaccines caused disabilities.

The report states, “The procured vaccines are not tested in laboratories to confirm their efficacy and genuineness. This leaves room for use of spurious and counterfeit vaccines”.

Noon said that the PMIC submitted the report to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in June. Despite the urgency of the matter, so far no action has been taken, he said.

GAVI’s partners include certain countries, the Bill and Melinda Gates Children’s Vaccine Programme, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, Rockefeller Foundation, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organisation and the World Bank, the report says.

The government of Switzer­land may be requested to investigate GAVI’s activities to find out whether it is really a non-profit organisation, as it professes. The report wants the “propriety of the partnership of WHO and Unicef with GAVI to be questioned before the appropriate authority of the UN”.

“GAVI support constitutes 7.8% of the total EPI cost of Rs26 billion. Pakistan will be spending Rs24.2 billion from its own resources on the purchase of new and under-used vaccines at much higher cost as compared to their equivalent vaccines. Consequently, the whole amount will be flowing back to the manufacturers who happen to be partners of GAVI,” says the report.

“It is not the GAVI that has been supporting Pakistan. In fact, it is Pakistan which has been providing financial assistance to GAVI’s partner manufacturers,” the report concludes.

The PMIC, while quoting a health ministry report, stated that cost of EPI from 2003-2012 with the pentavalent vaccine was worked out at $1.1 billion and would be just $680.7 million without it. “The cost of pentavalent vaccine is double the price of equivalent vaccines in Pakistan and 23 times higher than its equivalent vaccines in India,” according to the health ministry report.

The PMIC quizzed the National Programme Manger of the EPI. According to the report, he denied that GAVI support was intended to benefit manufacturers of the vaccines.

Edited by Nadir Hassan

Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2011. 

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Noor
    Nov 17, 2011 - 12:00PM

    Hats off to the good governance of this democratic govt.

    Can they produce anything at all for betterment of country??????????

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  • Nov 17, 2011 - 12:45PM

    So the crazy conservatives were right all along!

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  • Lobster
    Nov 17, 2011 - 2:49PM

    What a shame!! Government should immediately act and arrest the representatives in Pakistan for this “Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation”.

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  • anum
    Nov 17, 2011 - 3:41PM

    Wow. Way to go. So now the mullahs will rightfully condemn these vaccines for it does cut down the Muslim population. So much for encouraging birth control!

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  • Imtiaz
    Nov 17, 2011 - 6:00PM

    First of all, the report is of the opinion that the vaccine procured is expensive. It has reported instances of deaths and adverse reactions. But if the report is read carefully, one will found that these deaths and reactions are reported from other countries and not a single example from Pakistan is quoted. The report only highlights that 5,417 cases of the vaccine preventable diseases have been reported throughout Pakistan. Vaccination against a disease doesn’t mean 100% protection from the disease, e.g. children suffering from immuno-deficiency diseases don’t develop the required immunity. Therefore, the only issue with vaccine reported by Prime Minister Inspection Team is higher cost than the price for other similar antigens. The report should not have given this title.

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  • Ibn-e-Islam
    Nov 17, 2011 - 8:36PM

    Overall this is again an unfortunate example of irresponsible journalism and creating doubts about an item which based on available studies remain useful for children. There seems to be no attempt for getting version of the National Immunization Program or the concerned ministry now for the official version about safety of vaccine and basis on which the item was registered in Pakistan. The cost factor needs attention. However, overall it is a damaging article and appears to be written with a malicious intents. Ranas and noons have a history in mess around vaccination in the country.

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  • Nasir
    Nov 17, 2011 - 10:27PM

    Whatever is the case, this issue must be raised to UN/ WHO and Pak should also share her investigation with other countries mentioned in the Report.

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  • Dr F Sadiq
    Nov 18, 2011 - 3:19PM

    I cant believe if the vaccines were of poor quality. Would love to know if the storage of vaccines vials was at approriate temperature. Would pursue GAVI partners surely though!

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  • Journalism Nazi
    Nov 21, 2011 - 6:08PM
  • Shehzad
    Nov 22, 2011 - 12:06PM

    The report mentions 5417 deaths due to Vaccine preventable disease in Pakistan in 2010 while it also mentions that the program started in 2010. Thus these cases might have been in non vaccinated children. Vaccination also helps in monitoring the disease, which was not been done previously. There must be a well developed Pharmacivigilance system to monitor the disease and any side effects of Vaccines presenting in children and adults getting vaccinated.

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  • suz
    Dec 31, 2011 - 4:38AM

    Shehzad, you did not read that right. It says they had 5,417 cases. Not deaths. The first thing they should be doing is getting rid of the deadly vaccine. Not sit back and study the effects of the deadly vaccine. That would be criminal.

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  • Shehzad
    Dec 31, 2011 - 3:47PM

    Dear SUZ,

    Sorry about the mistake. However my rest of the arguments remain same as the vaccine added in 2009 was only Hib, while the rest of the vaccines were already a part of EPI program. We don’t know if 5417 cases, reported in 2010, were higher than preceding year or lower. I feel that we have to be more scientific in assessment rather than being political in the matter of health. I don’t see any proof of GAVI earning anything from the countries. How can anyone call a vaccine deadly without any proof. The vaccine in question has been used by over 100 million children across the globe without any major complaint. To me the report seems to be a case of trying to get funds in the form of cash for embezzlement like many other scams.

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