Friday, December 24, 2010

Polio vaccines may have lost efficacy in Pakistan

From IANS:

ISLAMABAD -- Authorities in Pakistan have come out with a shocking figure about polio cases. More than 78 percent of such confirmed cases in the country involved children who had been administered polio drops, raising questions about the efficacy of vaccine.

According to a report compiled by the National Institute of Health, out of 136 polio cases reported this year, 107 children had been administered polio drops on several occasions under a prescribed schedule, Dawn News reported Dec. 22.

The data available on the website of the World Health Organisation also indicated that Pakistan had registered the highest number of polio cases in a decade this year.

Officials at the National Polio Control Programme said the number of polio cases had increased during the last three years after going down for the previous seven years.

They suspected that the vaccine might have lost its efficacy after not having been stored at the required temperature, especially in far-flung areas where electricity supply is disrupted for long periods.

Athar Niaz Rana, head of allergy and immunology department at the Shifa International Hospital here, said: 'Vaccine failure and failure to vaccinate are two important factors which have affected the national polio campaign.'

He insisted that the 'security situation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province is also one of the factors which has led to the failure of vaccine in that region'.

'It is a WHO-tested vaccine and we have no doubt about its efficacy, although we have a few issues at the district-level related to management,' a health ministry official said.

He said the vaccine was not being used in Pakistan alone but also in several other countries.

'A surge in polio cases in a few areas is because of security reasons and the ministry has developed a comprehensive plan for 2011 to meet the challenge.'