LAHORE, April 16: At a time when an estimated 50 per cent of the target children have been missed in the routine immunisation coverage in Punjab, the acute shortage of MMR vaccine in the market has added to the woes of people.

MMR (a combination of measles, mumps and rubella) is stated to be an effective remedy against the three diseases, particularly the measles.

A senior official at the DG Health Office said unfortunately the government did not include it in the national Expanded Programme for Immunisation in Pakistan mainly due to ‘high cost’. He said some paediatricians and public health experts had asked the authorities to make MMR part of the EPI to get more effective results against the impact of the three diseases.The official said the MMR vaccine was in short supply these days in the market due to its increased demand in the wake of the measles outbreak. At least 43 children have been reported dead due to measles and allied complications in Punjab.

He said the first dose of the MMR vaccine was recommended at 12 to 15 months of age and the second between four to six years. “The second dose can also be given before time like during an outbreak of the disease but with a difference of at least 28 days after the first dose,” he said.

The official said it was introduced to induce immunity less painfully than three separate injections and get optimum benefit. He said this vaccine was available since 1971 in most European countries and the US.

Currently, he said, nine vaccines were part of the EPI to help develop immunity among children against diseases like polio, measles, BCG, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, hepatitis B and pneumococcal. The pneumococcal was included in the programme last year.

He said the MMR vaccine was largely imported by the private sector in the country. At present, it is available at a cost ranging between Rs700 and Rs900 per dose.

The vaccination has gone out of stock as a result of which people are facing problems. He said the department was receiving public complaints about black-marketeering of the vital vaccine.

Earlier, a UNICEF-WHO-GAVI mission, during its visit to the country and the Punjab Information Technology Board two weeks ago, had identified loopholes in the immunisation coverage. The mission had declared that more than 50 per cent of the children were missed in the routine immunisation coverage and the PITB had said 80 per cent of the total target children were not administered measles vaccine during and before the current epidemic.

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