Polio vaccine shortage blamed on supplier

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FILE: A girl is being administered a drop of polio vaccine. The KwaZulu-Natal health department said the shortage of polio vaccine in hospitals was a nationwide problem which originates from the supplier.

DURBAN - The shortage of polio vaccine in hospitals was a nationwide problem which originates from the supplier, the KwaZulu-Natal health department said on Wednesday.

"The [department] has noted with concern a misleading statement issued by the Democratic Alliance -- claiming that the shortage of the polio vaccine is being treated by the department in a &39;frivolous or trivial manner&39; and that the department is responsible for the shortage of the polio vaccine.

"The shortage [of the polio vaccine] is a nationwide problem which originates from the supplier, Biovac Institute," department spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi said in a statement.

On Tuesday, DA&39;s health spokesman Dr Imran Keeka said the Newcastle provincial hospital had run out of the orally-administered polio vaccine in mid-April.

"This means that all babies born since then did not receive this vital vaccination before being discharged," he said at the time.

He said he had been told babies were being discharged and their parents were being advised to go to the nearest clinic to get the vaccine.

"Whether parents have done this, whether clinics had the vaccine or whether it was available later at the six-week vaccine schedule, must be investigated urgently," Keeka said.

"That a vaccine specifically for new babies is not available at the hospital is scandalous."

Mkhwanazi said that in order to address shortages, the department had conducted and audit of stock levels.

The Road of Health booklet for each new born is clearly marked to indicate where no polio vaccination has been received and health facilities are keeping track of the details accordingly, he said.

"Once the stock is received in the province, the department will utilise the Community Care Giver Programme to trace the mothers and babies and ensure that the necessary polio vaccine is given," he said.

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal disease that usually strikes children younger than five years and is most often spread through infected water. There is no specific cure, but several vaccines exist.

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