Shortage of rabies vaccine

According to the health ministry it is struggling to supply human rabies vaccine to health facilities and the situation will not be resolved soon.

05 January 2018 | Health

For the past few months government hospitals and clinics have been running out of human rabies vaccine, which forces people to turn to private pharmacies - a costly exercise for many people who depend on state services.

Apart from the hundreds of dollars people have to spend on getting the rabies vaccine shot at private pharmacies, some people have to travel over 100 kilometres to government health facilities where they could receive free rabies vaccine. This week Namibian Sun visited the Oshakati State Hospital, where a man had brought his daughter from as far as Onyaanya in the Oshikoto Region after a dog had bitten her.

He said he had been to a number of other health facilities, which referred him to Oshakati.

The girl received an injection but a nurse told them that they would be lucky to get a follow-up shot, as vaccines run out quickly and it sometimes takes months before they get stock again.

In December, a source who was bitten by a dog in Windhoek and then travelled to the north could not get his second rabies shot as there was nothing at the Oshakati State Hospital.

“I was bitten by a dog in Windhoek and I came to the north for the holidays. As my day to get another shot arrived I went to the Oshakati State Hospital. To my surprise the lady I found there told me they did not have the rabies vaccine for months. I am unemployed and I do not have money to go to the pharmacy. What do I do now,” the source asked. In an interview with Namibian Sun yesterday, acting health permanent secretary Dr Dawid Uirab said the ministry was aware of the situation and it would not be solved anytime soon. Uirab said the shortage at the Central Medical Stores was caused by the fact that one of the major international vaccine suppliers had changed the formulation and needed to re-register the vaccine.

“The shortage of rabies vaccine in the country is not going to be solved now. What I have found out from our Central Medical Stores is that one of the major suppliers of rabies internationally has changed the formulation and when they do that they have to get new registrations so now they are not producing at the moment until that process is completed, so there is an international shortage of rabies vaccines,” Uirab explained.

Uirab said the other international companies supplying the vaccine were not able to satisfy the demand.

In 2015 it was reported that Namibia had recorded an average of 520 human cases of rabies per year since 2010.

KENYA KAMBOWE

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