PESHAWAR: The health department has shown concerns over shortage of anti-rabies vaccine and asked National Institute of Health Islamabad to ensure supply of the drugs to save the victims of rabid dog bite.

On January 4, 2019, the health department through a letter entitled “Inadequate supply of ARVs in KP,” pointed that the province was facing shortage of vaccine in the local market because the importers across the country had stopped its supply.

It said that the vaccine was not freely available in the market, causing life-threatening situation for the rabid dog victims and cases of non-availability of the vaccine had already been initiated by drug inspectors to take punitive actions but that would not helping in provision of the vaccine to the dog bitten people.

The NIH in a letter addressed to chief secretary on January 15 said that it had re-started production of the vaccine and efforts were afoot to increase production and meet the countrywide demand.

Shows concerns over shortage of vaccine in province

It also asked the health department to send its demand for the drug to NIH so that an assessment could be done and position regarding demand versus production could be ascertained.

The NIH said that it would try its level best to cater to the demand of the province for which 50 per cent payment would be made in advance. “Since there has been a shortage of ARV over the past few years, therefore, the NIH wants the health department to place initial demand,” it added.

The department has requested NIH to provide detailed information regarding production capacity and supply schedule of the vaccine to the hospitals of the province at the earliest.

On December 14, last year, health department informed NIH that it had awarded contract for supply of the vaccine to a Karachi-based firm, which failed to supply the same.

The NIH was requested to intervene because it was matter of life and death for the victims. The NIH was also asked to look into the matter for non-supply of the vaccine by the firm, which had been selected after due process.

To facilitate the victims of dog bite, the department asked the medical superintendents (MS) and district health officers (DHOs) on December 3 to purchase the vaccine from the local market or NIH to save the victims from complication. It also said that controlling officers would be held responsible for non-availability of the vaccine.

However, the authorities concerned are finding it hard to get the vaccine either from the NIH or the local market.

Most of the DHOs and MS are still awaiting NIH’s replies regarding their demand. In some districts, such as Bannu and Buner, the drugs are available but in short supply.

The manufacturers of the vaccine had stopped supply to the market since January 2018 but DHO had drugs to deal with emergency cases.

In August last year, the Indian firm, which used to supply the vaccine to Pakistan, stopped its supply, citing increasing demand at the domestic level.

The manufacturer said that it would inform the consumers when the situation improves back home and it would be in a position to resume sending the vaccine to the international market.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019