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Times of India
16 April 2010
By Manjari Mishra
Lucknow, India

Vaccination drive for Japanese Encephalitis (JE) has hit a major roadblock with Centre and state sparring over the quality of Chinese vaccine consignment sent by Union ministry of health and family welfare last year.

On October 5, 2009, in a letter to the joint secretary (health and family welfare ministry) Shakuntala Gamblin, UP principal secretary (health) Pradeep Shukla has catabolically mentioned that the “vaccine vial monitor VVM of 1,689,900 JE dosage dispatched by MSD Karnal on 25–9–2009 was rendered ineffective”.

The VVM, Shukla wrote, “has changed due to high temperature indicating that it has already reached second state of decay.”

The vaccines, Shukla has pointed out, is meant for use in the rural belt and the administration which has to be a part of the DPT booster dose for children between one and two years of age, may take a little while.

Under the circumstances, the vaccine could be useless by the time it is used.

Therefore, accepting the consignment, he says, is not in the interest of the routine immunisation programme.

However, the Centre seems in no mood to heed to the request. A letter (dated 4–2–2010) from assistant commissioner (immunisation division) Dr Anil Kumar to the UP cold chain officer, states: “Guidelines issued by the ministry of health and family welfare on October 20, 2008, clearly mention that the discard point of any vaccine with a VVM is when the colour of the inside square area is same as the outer circle of the VVM as seen under light.

The vaccine is to be discarded if the inner square area is of the same colour or darker than the outer circle area.”

“I am therefore to request you to please continue the use of JE vaccines if it has not reached the discard point,” concludes the letter. The direction has triggered off a panic wave among the state health authorities who feel that semi–potent dosage would only be a waste.

Considering the gravity of the recurring annual crisis which has been wrecking havoc in eastern UP, the Centre must procure and supply the best quality vaccines. Indifference here could prove fatal to unsuspecting children who deserve the best, said a senior officer.

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