ISLAMABAD: After 1.3 million doses of pentavalent vaccine were found spoiled at a store of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) on February 24, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has devised a mechanism to avoid such an incident in future.
However, the team that revamped the entire system was mainly assisted by USAID under its Deliver project.
Moreover, an inquiry into the incident could not be completed even after about two months. But in the meantime eight officials have been transferred.
It may be noted that the pentavalent doses sufficient to vaccinate 1.3 million children against five diseases, excluding polio, were found spoiled at the EPI store located on the premises of the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The spoilage of the vaccine was exposed through an email sent to Ayesha Raza Farooq, the prime minister’s focal person on polio, using a fake account in February 2015.
Ministry claims credit for system revamped under USAID project after 1.3m doses of vaccine were found spoiled at EPI store
The sender of the email was later identified as an official of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
After getting the information, the ministry representatives visited the store and found 1.3 million doses of the vaccine spoiled as the vaccine vial monitor (VVM) had changed its colour.
It was learnt that the air-conditioning plant inside the store was switched off from outside. Over such a major incident, the ministry did not take any action against the officers and made three low-ranking officials a scapegoat.
However, a three-member committee, consisting of Joint Secretary Amir Sheikh, Executive Director Pakistan Medical Research Council (PMRC) Huma Qureshi and Adviser Mazhar Nisar, was constituted to probe the matter.
On Thursday, mediapersons were invited to the EPI building at Chak Shahzad to brief them on the new arrangements for the storage of the vaccine.
EPI national programme manager Dr Saqlain Ahmad Gilani told the mediapersons that soon after the incident, a national vaccine management review committee was constituted.
“At that time, we had the chronic deficiency of human resource due to which it was not possible to monitor the overstocking and improper inventory management. The VVM of vaccines stored for long had not been checked,” he said.
The cold chain temperature monitoring equipment, he added, was insufficient and remote alarms were not available.
Stocks were just stuffed in the warehouse and physical counting of items was not possible and the overall operational environment was below standards, he added.
He said the USAID was requested for an immediate EPI reforms in response to which a technical support worth $1.5 million was provided. The officials trained on the cold chain management from the NIH along with USAID’s Deliver project team took 40 days to put things in order, he said.
Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar said after the incident the ministry revamped the vaccine storage and management system.
“Now the vaccine data of Pakistan can be accessed from anywhere in the world through a web-based system. Moreover, EPI operations can be monitored online. International good practices, including scanning and stock sufficiency, are being managed and monitored on a daily basis,” she said.
Dr Gilani told Dawn that logbooks had been put in place to ensure that the vaccine would not get expired in the stores.
“Sensors are being installed in the storerooms which, in case of a variation in the temperature, will send an email and SMS to all the offices concerned. We will be in a position to get the data about the temperature variations for the last 15 days,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2015