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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2012 - 10:22:56 PM
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India faces shortage of essential vaccines, says report

Jul 2, 2009 - 5:39:48 PM
While the government has already taken notice of the issue, it must act fast, the report contended.

[RxPG] New Delhi, July 2 - Even though India is the largest supplier of vaccines to the world, its domestic market is completely paralyzed, risking the health of millions of children, especially newborns, says a report.

'India is the largest supplier of vaccines to the world yet its domestic market of vaccines stands completely crippled, endangering the health and future of millions of its children, especially newborns,' according to a report in Down To Earth -, a fortnightly magazine of the Centre for Science and Environment -.

The report says in 2008 the Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss suspended the licenses of three crucial public sector suppliers of vaccines - the Central Research Institute - in Kasauli, BCG Vaccine Laboratory - in Chennai and Pasteur Institute of India - in Coonoor.

These three units together met 80 percent of the country's vaccine requirements under the universal immunization programme.

' Because of this the country is reeling from a debilitating shortage of vaccines, which has severely affected its universal immunization programme,' said the report. It added that on average the availability of vaccines in different states has fallen between 10 and 30 percent.

'What Down To Earth has uncovered is shocking - it shows that the ministry has been particularly and criminally negligent in ensuring an alternative supply of life-saving and vital vaccines in the country,' said Sunita Narain, Director of CSE.

A Right to Information - application filed by Down To Earth has revealed that the closure decision was taken after a World Health Organization - inspection found that the units lacked good manufacturing practices.

'But the ministry refuses to explain why closure was necessary and why steps could not have been taken to improve the functioning of these units. In fact, our investigation finds that the ministry curtailed its programme to build capacity and improve the functioning of these units,' the report added.

The ministry distributed the vaccine orders among three manufacturing units randomly - Serum Institute of India - and Biological Evans - in the private sector, and Indian Immunologicals Limited - in the public sector. But a parliamentary committee found that a chunk of the orders were given to Biological Evans, whose 'good' manufacturing practices remained doubtful.

The DTE report further revealed that the private sector has refused to provide the vaccines at affordable rates and it even quotes a confidential document of the ministry which showed that the government could not procure vaccines because private manufacturers had hiked their prices.

'What is even more ironic is that even as the ministry closed the existing public sector vaccine units, it had no option but to procure vaccines from these same units,' the DTE report said.

While the government has already taken notice of the issue, it must act fast, the report contended.

'We do believe this concerns the future of our country, our infants and the newborn. It cannot and must not be taken lightly,' Narain emphasized.

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