“We sent out the vaccine last week and there should be no problem accessing it now,” said the Director of Public Health Shahnaz Sharif.
While acknowledging that there may have been a delay in the acquisition and dispatch of the vaccine leading to the shortfall, Sharif said the matter had now been resolved with public health institutions expected to have received the supplies last week. “Our vaccine procurement depends on international manufacterers who are limited,” says Sharif.
The BCG vaccine was first introduced into the WHO Expanded Programme on Immunisation in 1974, but it wasn’t until 1921 that it was first used on humans. Although the vaccine does not prevent reactivation of latent TB, it continues to play an important role in the global fight against TB as the world awaits development of new vaccines.
Authorities in the three counties were mum over the matter with sources revealing that the situation was critical and could lead to death of infants.
Reliable sources at Isiolo District Hospital confirmed the BCG vaccine shortage but faulted the Ministry of Public Health, which had promised fresh stocks.
“The hospital had been waiting for new supplies from early May. Last week, we were told to expect it by today. Nothing has arrived so far,’ said the source on Friday.
TB is a bacterial disease, which commonly affects the lungs and is transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease. Newborn babies are supposed to be immunised within two weeks, according to WHO.
Estimates by the World Health Organisation put the figure of TB cases worldwide in 2010 to 8.8 million. In Kenya children account for 11 per cent of new TB infections each year, with the country ranked 13 out of 22 among those with a high TB burden.Globally at least 500,000 children aged below 14 got infected with TB in 2010, resulting in over 50,000 deaths.
In northern Kenya where communities are largely pastoralists, women lack access to maternity services due to poor infrastructure, traditional beliefs and ignorance.
“Majority of pastoralists women give birth at home due to lack of access to medical facilities and bad roads. There is lack of awareness among them on the importance of mothers giving birth in hospitals,’’ said Shoba Liban, the coordinator of Pastoralists Women for Health and Education, an NGO operating in Isiolo.
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