Pakistan is among a few countries of the world where vaccine-preventable diseases are affecting a large number of children. But careless handling of the vaccines is just making the situation worse. In this year alone, 11,800 vials of anti-polio vaccine worth Rs 3 million got useless due to poor handling of cold storage facilities, mainly on account of non-availability of back up facility during power outages.
Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are only three countries in the world with polio virus whereas Pakistan is on the top with 498 cases reported from January 2013 to June 2015.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), a total of 141 polio cases were reported in 2013 and 328 cases in 2014. In current year, as many as 29 cases were discovered till June 30.
The situation is equally bad in case of Pneumococcal diseases as Pakistan ranks third with the people suffering from the disease characterized by lung inflammation. World Pneumonia Day report (2014) says, that pneumonia is affecting 3 million Pakistani children, of theses 71,000 are losing their lives yearly.
Due to non-availability of clean drinking water and hygienic food, most of the children falling prey to diarrhoea.
According to an international health agency, diarrhoea is killing 53000 children below the age of 5-year annually. The number of measles’ cases in Pakistan has witnessed an increase over the last few years as per reports of WHO.
In May 2015, the General Secretary of Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) Dr Ayesha Mehnaz revealed before the media that 1000 children falling under 5 year age group, die due to non –availability of vaccines.
Disease rate in Pakistan During 2005-2014
(WHO Data of 5 diseases reported during last ten years (2005-2014) in Pakistan)
For the eradication of all these diseases in Pakistan, an international organisation Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization (GAVI) is providing free vaccination. According to GAVI reports, the International organization has disbursed $759.6 million support for Pakistan during last five years. Out of this amount, eighty five per cent is allocated for vaccination.
(Above pi-chart is showing the distribution of support given by GAVI to Pakistan for 2010-2015)
The largest proportion of this Vaccine Support is going to pentavalent vaccines ($301,410,102) and second largest is dedicated to vaccination against pneumonia ($272,949,584).
With a large support from GAVI, WHO, and Unicef, Pakistan is still having a significant number of cases of these diseases which requires strong policies to combat these ailments through vaccination. Due to improper storage of vaccine in cold storage is making these vaccines ineffective which results in increasing the numbers of diseases. Many improvements have been made in the immunization coverage largely due to the use of technology. Military operation Zarb e Azb also increased the sense of security among health workers and they are providing vaccination to the children and pregnant women of North Waziristan living in refugee camps.
At federal level in the National Institute of Health, the carelessness was observed in storing vaccination which was given by GAVI. Around thirty five percent (35%) of the total pentavalent vaccines was destroyed. This vaccine was reserved for five diseases including diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, meningitis, and pneumonia. It was reported that during load shedding hours the cold storage keeper and monitoring teams failed to maintain the temperature of vaccination with the help of generators and 1.3 million pentavalent vaccine doses of $3.7 million cost were expired.
All provinces are facing shortage of vaccine reserves in their own cold storage therefore International health organisations are criticising Pakistan on its poor performance in eradication of diseases.
The Extended Programme on Immunization (EPI) Punjab Director Dr Munir Ahmad said that the loss of pentavalent vaccination defame the country and ruining their efforts. He added that Punjab is facing shortage of doses in reserve being the biggest consumer of vaccine due to larger population.
Dr Ahmad said that two new cold storage units will be functional by the end of September this year in Punjab. It will enable the province to store whole of its own vaccine and other province are also working on new cold warehouses and supply chains to avoid the same mistake in future, he said and added that we can’t afford any further loss of vaccination which we are having in aid. – Samaa
Story first published: 28th August 2015