BELAGAVI, MANGALURU, BENGALURU: At a time when the country is on the verge of eradicating polio completely, the endgame in some parts of Karnataka seems to be getting complicated. For the last few months, several Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the state have reportedly been sending back people citing a shortage of the injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV).
A testimony to the prevailing situation is the plight of Kavya G H, the mother of a two-month-old toddler. “The PHCs are being deprived of IPVs for the last four months in Chikkamagaluru district. The PHC health staff told me that a supply crunch was the reason and they even denied vaccination for my child,” she said.
Despite several visits over a fortnight, her daughter Tanya, born in Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, was denied IPV for one or the other reason until finally a nurse informed her that there is short supply since the last four months. “On September 19, a nurse at the Gadihalli PHC in Tarikere taluk, bordering Chitradurga district, said the vaccination cannot be administered as there is a shortage of IPV. Other vaccinations like Rotavirus, Pentavirus and oral polio will be administered only after the arrival of IPV,” Kavya said.
The New Sunday Express has also learnt that IPV was denied to children at an Anganwadi centre in Kadur taluk a few days ago.
The staff at PHCs in Chikkamagaluru district claim that they get supply of one vial, which consists of 25 doses, while at least 50 children come to them in a month.
Speaking to TNSE, District Health Officer Dr Aswath Babu acknowledged that there is a delay in the supply of vaccines from the state head office and added that the Gadihalli PHC staff cannot be blamed for the situation.
“It is not the case of Gadihalli PHC alone, the situation is the same at all public health units in the state. Vaccines will be supplied shortly. Parents were told not to worry as the vaccine will be administered soon after arrival of stocks,” he added.
Admitting that there was a problem in supplying IPVs to Chikkamagaluru district, Dr Rajani B N of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare maintained, “There was a delay in dispatching IPV vials from Mangaluru, but there is no shortage of vaccines.”
It’s not just Chikkamagaluru or Dakshina Kannada. Many PHCs across the seven districts of North Karnataka too are facing a shortage of the vaccine.
In Belagavi, the pharmacy which supplies the vaccine to all taluks, is reportedly supplying only Oral Polio Drops (OPV) and not IPVs. The supply in these taluks is affected for the past three months, claim parents and some ASHA workers.
The New Sunday Express accessed documents which showed an indent raised for at least 1,000 IPVs but not even a single vial was received from the health department in Athani taluk. A senior Health Department official, on condition of anonymity, said that vaccines were not supplied to 21 PHCs in Athani taluk in the last one month.
Similarly, in some parts of Chikkodi taluk, there is a shortage of injectable vaccines at the PHCs, but the health officers there are administering oral polio drops to children.
However, Belagavi Immunisation Officer Dr I P Gadad claimed that the government has not been facing any shortage of vaccines in recent times and that the polio vaccines are being supplied to all rural health centres in North Karnataka districts at least four times in a year to cater to the needs of the people.
“We administer IPVs and also give oral polio drops to children. Currently, there are no problems and polio vaccination is being taken up at regular intervals,’’ said Dr Gadad.
Dr Rajesh, Reproductive and Child Health Officer in Dakshina Kannada too admitted that there was a problem with supply of IPVs, but said he did not have details of the available stock. Asked about the reason for the shortage, he only said, “There was some problem with supply, that’s all I know,” he said. From September, the supply is gradually increasing, he added.
Meanwhile, private doctors in Bengaluru claim that the shortage or disruption in supply of IPV has been a global phenomenon since its introduction in 2016. The government has procured all the stocks available with various vaccine dealers. So, paediatricians are finding it difficult to even get a single dose of the vaccine from the open the market, said Dr Gopikrishna, a paediatrician at Seva Kshetra Hospital.
“Earlier, pharma companies used to deliver the vaccine to all private hospitals. But now, after the government made it mandatory to supply to the health department, they are not able to produce enough. They don’t supply it to us properly,” a private practitioner said.