Saving face: DG health stands by measles vaccine

Says recent cases of reactions not related to medicine quality.


Our Correspondent May 27, 2014
“The recent cases of AEFI could have occurred due to human error, however, the health department has no dearth of well-trained staff,” said the DG. PHOTO: REUTERS / FILE

PESHAWAR:


Refuting concerns about the measles vaccine available in the province, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Director General (DG) Health Dr Waheed Burki has said that the reactions being reported from across K-P have “nothing to do with the quality of the vaccines.”


Addressing a news conference at the Directorate of Health on Tuesday, Dr Burki said, “We do not have any doubts about the potency and efficacy of the vaccines and the Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) are not related to the quality of the drugs.”

“The recent cases of AEFI could have occurred due to human error, however, the health department has no dearth of well-trained staff,” said the DG.

Dr Burki claimed the vaccines were procured by the federal government in line with all the relevant policies and their expiry date is next year.

The DG maintained that during the first seven days of the campaign, 62% of their target was met, i.e. 5,774,901 children across K-P were vaccinated.

“Rumours are being spread about the measles vaccine to create fear in parents. This will have adverse effects on the health of children and tarnish the 12-day vaccination campaign as welll,” said Burki.

Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Deputy Director Dr Janbaz Afridi said, “Anaphylactic shock is the most common reaction to the measles vaccine and throughout the drive no such case has been reported which proves the excellent quality of the vaccine.”

Dr Afridi added the recent AEFI cases have caused fear in people and several refusal cases are surfacing, however, he added that the health department is attempting to bridge the gap with the help of effective communication.

Cause for concern

On May 19, the K-P government launched a 12-day immunisation campaign against measles with the financial help of international organisations. The campaign aims to vaccinate 9,638,835 children to prevent an outbreak of measles.

According to data provided by the Directorate of Health, 51 suspected cases of AEFI were reported from Swat out of which five were confirmed, 23 suspected cases were brought to hospitals in Hangu out of which four were confirmed and 30 suspected AEFI cases were taken in hospitals in Kohat from which two were confirmed. Similarly, five AEFI cases were confirmed from Peshawar and one from Karak.

Concerns about the measles vaccine were raised last week after several schoolchildren fainted following the administration of the vaccine in several districts.

On May 19, around 25 students of Government Girls Primary School Dalan, in Hangu district fainted after being injected with the measles vaccine. They were shifted to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Thal and discharged after first aid. The incident caused panic and anger among the residents who came out to the streets to protest against the district health officials.

Moreover, on May 21, six students of a private school in Jangal Khel, Kohat also lost consciousness following the administration of the measles vaccine. On May 24, over 50 students of a private school in Mingora also had to be taken to the hospital after they fainted following the injection of the measles vaccine.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2014.

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