|Hospitals and clinics, where people have to pay for their children's vaccines since these are imported and not supplied for free under healthcare programmes, say many vaccines are in short supply. — Photo laodong
HCM CITY (VNS) — HCM City will not have enough foreign-produced vaccines that are not part of the Government's free supply until next year, according to the city Department of Health.
Hospitals and clinics, where people have to pay for their children's vaccines since these are imported and not supplied for free under healthcare programmes, say many vaccines are in short supply.
This has been blamed on a production slowdown by several international companies and importers' apprehension to import in large quantities fearing wastage.
The Ministry of Health, asked by the media why it had not resolved the shortage, said it could only focus on the availability of the vaccines provided for free for all children through health centres.
The vaccines in short supply include Infanrixhexa 6-in-1 for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Pentaxim 5-in-1 vaccine for the same diseases except hepatitis B, Varivax vaccine against chickenpox and Vaxigrip vaccine against flu.
At a recent meeting between the department and vaccine manufacturers and distributors, UK company GlaxoSmithKline said it had only 16,059 doses of Infanrixhexa 6-in-1 for this year. US-owned Merck Sharp & Dohme Company said it had only 166,000 doses of chickenpox vaccines for this year for the entire country.
The health department has recommended that parents should vaccinate their children with Quinvaxem 5-in-1 provided for free under the ministry of Health's Expanded Programme for Immunisation.
According to the central Department of Preventive Health, the programme had a sufficient supply of all vaccines for children aged less than five.
Tran Dac Phu, head of the department, told Vietnam Plus online newspaper that the main cause for the shortage of the imported vaccines was that drug companies had modified their production chains, leading to a slowdown in production.
At a recent meeting Nguyen Tri Dung, head of the city Preventive Health Centre, said the demand was difficult to forecast.
For example, last years media reports about the side effects caused by Qunivaxem caused people to flock to hospitals and clinics to opt for the foreign vaccines over the free vaccination provided by the Government, leading to a shortage.
If an epidemic occurred anywhere in the country, demand for the imported vaccines would shoot up immediately, he said.
Quinvaxem was as safe as Infanrixhexa 6-in-1 and Pentaxim 5-in-1 vaccines, he said. It was not right to say Quinvaxem was unsafe and caused side effects, he said, adding that last year nearly 300,000 children in the city got the vaccine, with only two going into anaphylactic shock but no one dying. — VNS