Anti-measles drive: Most vaccinators are untrained

Health Dept says lacks resources to conduct simultaneous province-wide campaign.


Ali Usman April 30, 2013
The government began the vaccination campaign on Monday, aiming to immunise three million children under 10 in an attempt to halt the measles epidemic. PHOTO: REUTERS / FILE

LAHORE:


Most of the 1,300 vaccinators taking part in the week-long measles inoculation drive in the city have not received proper training, and some don’t even have experience of administering injections, The Express Tribune has learnt.


The government began the vaccination campaign on Monday, aiming to immunise three million children under 10 in an attempt to halt the measles epidemic which has killed at least 60 and infected over 10,000 children in the Punjab.

But the Health Department has only 400 trained vaccinators. The rest of the vaccinators are hospital staff including nurses and lab technicians who have received just one day of training. “Many staffers have never administered injections to kids,” a Health Department official with knowledge of the campaign told The Express Tribune.

These include lab attendants who have never dealt with patients, said a trained vaccinator at the office of the EDO (Health). “It is very dangerous. They have been given one or two days’ training,” he said.

“Vaccinators get six months of training before they are sent out in the field to administer vaccines. Those with no training have no idea of the potential neurological complications of the injection. Only a qualified vaccinator knows whether to administer the injection in the thigh or arm. If the anti-measles vaccine isn’t properly administered, it can cause severe complications,” said a senior paediatrician at King Edward Medical University (KEMU).

Doctors also pointed out that the Health Department was supposed to run a campaign to give children vitamin A doses in April under the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), but had not done so. Vitamin A deficiency can be lethal for children infected with measles.

The vaccination campaign has also come under criticism as Lahore is being targeted ahead of the rest of the province. “The Health Department hasn’t even acted upon the advice of its advisory group, which suggested the anti-measles drive should be started simultaneously across the province,” said a senior consultant at Children’s Hospital.

Health Department Director General Dr Tanveer Ahmed said that there were just 400 trained vaccinators in Lahore and the rest had to be recruited from public hospitals. “They are nurses and technicians, 95 per cent of them nurses,” he said.

He said that he wasn’t aware of staff with no experience of injections or no training being used as vaccinators, but if there were such cases, they should be brought to the notice of the authorities.

Dr Ahmed said that there was a shortage of vitamin A in the Punjab. “There is some issue between the federal government and the Drug Regularity Authority due to which vitamin A doses haven’t been supplied to the Punjab yet. I cannot say when the issue will get sorted out,” he said.

He said that ideally, the vaccination drive would be occurring across the province at the same time, but this was not possible. “We don’t have the resources to carry out this campaign simultaneously in the whole province and the vaccine is arriving in batches, so we will do it in phases,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2013.

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