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Can Pakistan afford to waste vaccines worth $1.3 million?

Pakistan is a country that has various health issues. There are no proper health policies in place and the problem is exacerbated by the shortage of various essential vaccines. There's also a huge divide between the haves and have-nots, a huge percentage of the population is poor and there's lack of awareness about health issues. So imagine our consternation when he heard that vaccines worth $1.3 million had been ruined due to improper storage facilities.

According to a recent news piece, millions of infants in Pakistan missed an anti-tuberculosis immunization drive due to a countrywide shortage of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine which protects against tuberculosis. According to the news piece, doses of pentavalent vaccine worth $1.3 million had been ruined due to improper storage practices of the National Health Services (NHS) of Pakistan.

To put the loss into context, these vaccines were enough to vaccinate 4,00,000 infants against five potentially deadly diseases including diphtheria, tetanus,whooping cough, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B. The vaccines were reportedly ruined because of fluctuating temperatures in the storeroom. As a result, junior officials, a store-keeper and a sub-engineer were suspended.

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The incident came to light after senator Ayesha Raza Farooq received an email from a fake account stating vaccines worth $1.3 million had been ruined in the storeroom. Copies of the email were also sent to WHO, UNESCO and other international bodies. To check the validity of the email, the senator checked with the sender of the email, who claimed he hadn't sent it. As a precautionary measure, both of them checked the store and found out that the information in the email was, in fact, correct.

Irrespective of the fact that the guilty have been suspended, can a country like Pakistan afford to lose vaccines worth $1.3 million, especially when it depends on donations from first world countries? Or should we infer that Pakistan actually doesn't really care about donations? Should the officials at the National Health Services of Pakistan have not been vigilant about the storage conditions of the vaccines? And if this would have gone unnoticed, those 4,00,000 children who would have been vaccinated with these spoilt vaccines would have had to bear the brunt. Can, Pakistan, which is already struggling to tackle a disease like polio, afford a mistake like this? (Read: Pakistan reports a new case of polio)

Image source: Getty Images


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