In the last six months, 100,000 people were bitten by dogs in Sindh. But the province doesn’t have enough anti-rabies vaccines (ARV).
Indian ARV makers have stopped supplying to Pakistan citing an increased domestic demand, according to pharmaceutical importer Usman Ghani. “The Indian federal health ministry instructed on April 1 all of their pharmaceutical companies that they can only export 30% of the vaccines,” said Ghani told SAMAA TV’s on its show Naya Din on Wednesday.
He said that due to this limitation only the countries with a lot of money can get the vaccine. “Unfortunately, Pakistan could not pay that much for the vaccine, which is why we couldn’t get the vaccine,” he said.
He explained that China and India were the only two exporters ARVs around the world. However, China’s vaccine was banned after it failed the standard test while India can’t produce enough to export across the globe. He added that the vaccine made by the WHO is also not available due to the high demand.
“The National Institute of Health (NIH) has started the production of Cell Culture Rabies Vaccine s(CCRV) after taking an almost yearlong break,” said Ghani. He added that earlier the NIH halted local production of vaccines saying that they were using obsolete methods.
“The ARV isn’t the only vaccine that isn’t available. The 10 basic vaccines used by the Expanded Programme on Immunization to vaccinate approximately six million children up to 11 years of age are also not available in Pakistan because we import them from India,” added health journalist Muhammad Waqar Bhatti. He said that except for polio, Pakistan doesn’t have any other vaccines available locally.
Ghani says that the shortage of the vaccine is also because of the increasing number of dog bite cases.
Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali said that the JPMC, Civil Hospital and Indus Hospital are the facilities that still have ARVs right now. “Only the JPMC is providing dog bite vaccinations at low costs but soon we will also be running out of it,” she said.
She said that they have to vaccinate many people who haven’t been bitten by rabid dogs on the off chance that they might contract rabies. “To fulfill the domestic demand of ARV, JPMC gives low dosage to patients as approved by the WHO,” said Dr Jamali. “India used to sell the vaccine to UNICEF for $8, however, in Pakistan we have to provide the vaccination at under Rs 800.”
She said that in Sindh alone, dog bites cases have reached to 100,000 in the past six months.
The Animal Welfare Trust suggests that the only way to control increasing dog bite cases is to neuter dogs.“It takes five to 10 hours for a dog to die after it gets poisoned by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation,” said Animal Welfare Trust representative Adil Khan. “ It is better to neuter them than to poison them.”