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KARACHI, June 27: Thousands of students aged from five to 15 years in private schools in the city could not be vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus as government-run vaccination teams were not allowed to access them during a recently concluded special drive.

This was stated by the manager of the Sindh hepatitis control programme, Dr Abdul Majeed Chhuto, at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday.

The conference was held to highlight the programme’s progress and performance during the past four years and to clarify a statement given by a member of the Sindh Assembly about the hepatitis control activities during a recent assembly session.

Flanked by deputy manager of the programme Dr Ali Anjum and Dr Zahoor J. Baloch, Dr Chhuto said the statement by revenue minister Jam Mehtab was incorrectly reported in a section of the media.

“I have personally explained the working of the hepatitis programme to the minister and he said he was convinced that the programme was being run in a transparent manner and benefited the masses, including those living in the high-risk districts of the province,” he said.

He said the hepatitis control programme launched in 2009 as the chief minister’s initiative had an annual target of treating about 95,000 hepatitis B and C patients and vaccinating about 1.4 million people, including jail inmates and people living in high-risk districts, including Ghotki, Shikarpur and Jacobabad.

Under the programme so far about 1.4 million patients of hepatitis B and C had been treated, while about 4.6 million people had been given preventive vaccines against hepatitis B, said Dr Chhuto, adding that about 1.8 million schoolchildren in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions had been given three doses against hepatitis B in the first phase of a special campaign organised with the cooperation of the Sindh education department and the deputy commissioners concerned.

However, he complained that not all students of schools in Karachi could be vaccinated as school administrations resisted the government vaccination teams.

The programme had req-uested the authorities to intervene, but a relevant education department offi-cer, despite the education secretary’s directives, failed to help.

He, however, said efforts would be made to reach the leftover students during the second phase of the hepatitis B vaccination campaign meant for schools after summer vacation.

Dr Chhuto said creating awareness among the people and healthcare professional about preventive measures was essential in controlling the spread of both the HBV and HCV.

Replying to a question, he said the hepatitis programme had got the sale price of pegasis injection reduced by 50 per cent across the country with the help of Switzerland. Over 2,000 hepatitis patients from Balochistan and Punjab had also benefited from the Sindh hepatitis control programme after the winding up of the prime minister’s programme on control and prevention of hepatitis following the devolution of various health sector facilities to Sindh under the 18th constitutional amendment, he said.