via TB vaccine shortage hits Zim – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 18, 2015
THOUSANDS of children risk contracting tuberculosis (TB) due to a critical shortage of BCG vaccine at most clinics and public health facilities throughout the country.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
A single dose of Bacille de Calmette et Guérin (BCG) vaccine is used to prevent TB and administered within hours of a child’s birth.
The procedure has been declared mandatory by the World Health Organisation (WHO), making it an integral part of the routine immunisation programme.
Acting Harare city health director, Clemence Duri confirmed the shortage, but said the situation was under control.
“We are trying to rationalise supplies and have devised a strategy of batching, where women will go for vaccination on different days in their respective areas,” he explained.
Duri said the shortage was a result of reduced supplies, which they were trying to manage so that no baby was compromised.
“People should not panic, we are in control of the situation,” he said.
Duri, however, could not give a timeframe as to when the situation would return to normal.
Sources at Harare Central and Parirenyatwa hospitals also confirmed the BCG shortage. The situation was said to be the same in cities such as Bulawayo and Gweru.
Fears abound that some mothers, once discharged, would not come back for the vaccine, which is normally given within hours of birth.
WHO recommends that BCG be administered on all children living in highly-endemic countries, as well as infants and children at particular risk of TB exposure in otherwise low-endemic areas. A single dose of BCG given to neonates is one intervention that has contributed to a reduction in the burden of TB, and demonstrates the importance of immunisation.
Over the past three years, there has been a decline in global availability of BCG vaccine. One of the major reasons is that the number of suppliers with prequalified vaccine is very limited. There are currently only four suppliers of prequalified BCG vaccine.
A number of suppliers who did not have prequalified BCG vaccine have exited the market, leading to increased demand from the remaining global suppliers.
Some suppliers of prequalified BCG have experienced manufacturing problems that have reduced quantities of vaccines produced.