Lack of anti-rabies vaccines at govt hospitals puts lives at risk.

Byline: Tooba Masood

KARACHI -- Ten days ago, a seven-year-old from Shikarpur ended up at the Indus Hospital in a state of gasping. He was immediately put on a ventilator. The cause, his father learnt, was a dog bite on the child's arm.

The father told a doctor at the hospital that last month his son had been bitten by a rabid dog. 'He was playing outside with other children ... teasing the neighbour's dog when the animal suddenly attacked my boy,' he said.

'We took him to big hospitals in Shikarpur, Larkana and Hyderabad for the anti-rabies vaccine but people there kept telling me that it was unavailable. They kept promising me that they would try to procure it but never did. In the end I had no other option but to bring my child to Karachi,' he said.

Doctors fear the hospitals that have the vaccines at the moment will soon run out of it

Six hours later, the child passed away.

Fatal bite

Mohammad Aftab Gohar, the manager of the rabies programme at the Indus Hospital, explained that unfortunately most public sector hospitals in the country were facing a chronic shortage of rabies vaccine. In the last 10 years, he said, Karachi has had more than 27,000 animal bite victims.

'We don't have a national level stock.

Most hospitals purchase vaccines on their own from local vendors and they don't have any vaccine these days,' he told Dawn. Sources say that the country is short by 800,000 doses.

'For the last few months an extreme shortage of the rabies vaccine has been observed across the country, including Sindh, and as a consequence patients have to travel long distances to get to hospitals such as the Indus Hospital and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for vaccinations,' added Mr Gohar.

The vaccine, he explained, can be imported from Europe but it is more expensive there and the supply has progressively reduced.

'India produces a good quality vaccine which is economical for us but due to a limited supply from there we are facing an extreme shortage,' he added.

In the last couple of years, incidents of dog bites have increased in India. According to a report by the Global Alliance on Rabies Control, India accounts for about 35 per cent of the human rabies deaths, more than any other country.


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