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Health officials suspended for wasting $3.7m worth vaccines

Updated March 03, 2015
A health worker gives polio vaccines to children in the suburbs of Lahore. AP/File Photo
A health worker gives polio vaccines to children in the suburbs of Lahore. AP/File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The government has suspended two health officials after $3.7 million worth of vaccines donated by UNICEF to protect children from deadly diseases were wasted, officials said Tuesday.

The pentavalent vaccines which protect against five diseases with a single shot weren't stored at the correct temperature, allowing them to spoil, officials said.

“An inquiry commission was formed to investigate the case and has suspended two officials for negligence,” Dr Saqlain Ahmad Gilani, the national manager at the Expanded Programme on Immunisation told AFP, adding, “The vaccines were stored on a higher temperature than required."

State minister of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar confirmed the incident but remained positive saying it would lead to an improvement in vaccine monitoring.

Tarar hinted the vaccines were ruined because of “departmental conflicts”, saying "It appears that one person was switching off the generator when it was turned on apparently to save fuel.”

She said the inquiry report will be finalised in a week and made public, insisting more than half of the vaccines could still be used.

To read more: Pakistan wastes $3.7 million worth of donated vaccine

Immunisation of children remains a big challenge for Pakistan, with polio a particular concern. The pentavalent vaccine does not cover polio.

Polio vaccination teams have repeatedly come under attack as radical religious clerics declare immunisation of children un-Islamic, despite ulemas claiming otherwise.

Take a look: Polio vaccine not un-Islamic: ulema

On Monday, police in KP arrested more than 450 parents for refusing to vaccinate their children against polio.

For more: KP police arrest 471 parents for refusing polio vaccine

Last year, the number of polio cases recorded in Pakistan soared to 306, the highest in 14 years. At least nine new cases have been detected in 2015 so far.