The closure of all the three government-run vaccine manufacturing units in the country in January 2008 has had a major implication on the immunisation programme of the country in 2008-2009. Not only has there been a shortfall of vaccine,the government target achieved has been far less than what was envisioned.
While a parliamentary standing committee on health said there was a shortfall of more than 10 crore doses in 2008-9,in a report tabled in the house in February,Health Ministry data tabled in the House on July 8 showed at least 10 percent decline in target achievement for immunisation compared to the last three years.
According to the government figures:
•Measles vaccines were provided to 1,57,34,349 children in 2008-2009,which was around 81.2 percent of the assessed need. The government had achieved 93.2 percent target in 2005-06,92.6 per cent in 2006-07,90.7 per cent in 2007-08.
•Polio target achieved in 2008-09 was 83.3 percent,while it was 92.5 in 2007-08,97.1 in 2006-07,95.8 in 2005-06.
•DPT for children (III Dose) achieved target was 78.2 percent in 2008-09,93.9 in 2007-08,97.1 in 2006-07,95.9 in 2005-06.
•BCG,achieved target in 2008-09 was 93.8 percent,while it was 99.9 in 2008-07,102.5 in 2007-06,103.8 in 2005-06.
•Tetanus immunisation for expectant mothers also went downwhile it was 74 per cent this year,it had been 79.6 per cent in 2007-08.
With the Health Minister promising to revive the defunct vaccine facilities soon,the Central Research Institute (CRI),Kasauli is likely to start operations in June 2010. The proposals are yet to be finalised for Pasteur Institute of India,Coonoor and BCG Vaccine Laboratory,Guindy. The project in CRI Kasauli is being retro-fitted with Rs 15 crore and is set to meet the June 2010 deadline. The three units used to meet 80 per cent of the vaccine needs in the country under the Universal Immunisation Programme.
The three manufacturers of tetanus,DPT,polio,BCG and measles vaccines were closed in 2008 on the ground that they did not comply with the World Health Organisations good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards. The decision was taken in the former health minister Dr Anbumani Ramadosss tenure. The then government had said that WHO had threatened that the National Regulatory authority would lose its recognition if nothing was done about the three units. In case NRA lost recognition it would have hit the quantum of exports and the entire drug industry in India would have suffered. India has Rs 1,500 crore in the vaccine segment and over Rs 24,000 crore in the drugs industry. The country exports vaccines to about 151 countries in the world.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said,There was no hidden motive in closing down the vaccine manufacturing units. They were not following good manufacturing practices. They thought they could get away with it because they are a government enterprise. Had we not done that,our regulatory authority would have gotten derecognised. We are starting the Kasauli unit next year. Others will follow. The vaccine shortfall has lead to protests from many quarters. The Centre for Science and Environment has written a letter to the PM seeking intervention. In the letter,Sunita Narain the head of the CSE has quoted Health Ministry documents saying how the government could not procure vaccines as the private manufacturers hiked their prices in this period,which strained the budget of the ministry enormously. According to the letter another document also marked confidential,reveals that the vaccine cost of DPT and BCG for 2008-09 was Rs 64.29 crore,as compared to Rs 32.20 crore last year.
Work has barely started and the complex is likely to function only after a few years. In this period,vaccine shortages are already taking the lives of children. What is even more ironical is that even as the ministry closed the units it had no option but to procure vaccines from these same units. The ministry revealed this in response to our RTI application, said Narain. If you needed only Rs 15 crore,why didnt the Government go for it instead of procuring vaccines from private facilities? she asked.