Cape babies at risk as vaccines run low
Cape Town - Thousands of babies and young children in the Western Cape are at risk of contracting serious contagious diseases as the provincial Department of Health ran out of some vaccines as far back as five months ago.
Department spokesperson Faiza Steyn confirmed there was a shortage of oral polio vaccine, measles and hepatitis B vaccines across clinics in the province, a shortage that stemmed from the national immunisation programme.
There were also reports of a shortage of the BCG vaccine, which protects against TB.
She said the shortage came after the vaccines had failed quality assurance tests and were apparently discarded.
However, the national Department of Health did not confirm these claims.
Joe Maila, spokesperson for Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, said it was the first time he had heard of the shortage and promised to investigate.
Steyn said while immunisation was given to children between birth and 12 years, most vaccines were administered in the first year of a child’s life.
Oral polio vaccine protects children from a crippling disease that attacks nerves and causes weakness and paralysis of limbs.
Measles causes high fever and a rash, and can lead to diarrhoea, dehydration, deafness, eye complications, pneumonia, brain damage and death.
Hepatitis B can cause liver damage, liver cancer and death.
Damaris Kiewiets, chairwoman of the Cape Metro Health Forum, said that she had received calls more recently from nurses who said their clinics had run out of the BCG vaccine.
She said the shortage was due to Health MEC Theuns Botha’s “weak leadership”, saying: “Since he took over there’s been a series of drug shortages… and every time there is a problem he… blames the national government.”
Botha said that he had asked for an investigation and intended to take up the matter with the national health minister. - Cape Argus