SHC directs health dept to provide funds for anti-snake venom, anti-rabies vaccine laboratory

Despite being established over a decade ago, the lab has yet to produce the vaccines, says petitioner


Z Ali August 04, 2019
PHOTO: REUTERS

HYDERABAD: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has ordered the Sindh Health Department to provide funds for completion of the Sakrand Laboratory of Anti Snake Venom and Anti Rabies Vaccine in Nawabshah. Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah, who appeared before Hyderabad Circuit Bench on Friday after he was served a contempt of court notice, assured the court of regular quarterly fund release.

Petitioner Muhammad Yaqoob Mangrio pleaded that the though the lab was established over a decade ago, it has still not produced the vaccines which are currently being provided by the National Institute of Health Sciences, Islamabad. He cited the vast shortage of anti-snake venom (ASVs) and anit-rabies vaccines (ARVs) in public sector hospitals across the province to emphasise on the need of establishing a production lab of these vaccines in Sindh.

During the hearing, the chief secretary submitted minutes of a recent meeting held after an earlier order of the SHC in the same petition. He apprised the court that the lab's project director and consultant will get their ASV and ARV registered with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) within a month. Shah added that the funds will be released to the lab through the account of Peoples University of Medical Health Sciences for Women, Nawabshah.

Typhoid vaccines added to routine immunisation programme

"After release of the funds the PC-I will be revised again," said Shah. He told the court that he along with Health Secretary Saeed Awan visited the lab in Sakrand and he felt satisfied with their work. He assured that the first tranche of funds will be released to the lab by September and that will be followed by quarterly releases.

Consultant Dr Naeemul Haque Qureshi informed the court that only three countries in the world are preparing ASV with caprylic acid, adding that the lab will make Pakistan the fourth country using the acid for the ASV.

He said at present very expensive ASVs and ARVs are being imported from India the prices of which vary between Rs2,000 to Rs5,000 per dose, adding that up to 20 doses are sometimes required for patients. He claimed that 1,200 to 1,500 people die due to snake and dog bites in Sindh every year.

The bench comprising Justice Salahuddin Panhwar and Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry ordered the provincial government to supply the lab's ASVs and ARVs to public sector hospitals within one month after their approval from DRAP and production. The bench ordered the chief secretary to personally ensure that the order is implemented. The health secretary was asked to submit quarterly reports in this regard in the office of the SHC additional registrar.

SHC also ordered the Sindh government to appoint the senior most professor at Peoples University of Medical Health Sciences for Women, Nawabshah, Prof Atta Muhammad Chandio, as the acting Vice Chancellor until the search committee appoints a new VC.

Corruption allegation

Meanwhile, SHC directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to examine the corruption allegation made by a petitioner in the utilisation of scholarship funds by Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro. The court told the petitioner, Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, that he could approach NAB for the inquiry of the alleged embezzlement. However, the court restricted NAB from disturbing the accounts and scholarship funds of the university during the inquiry. "No harassment shall be caused as the matter pertains to a reputable university." 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2019.

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