HARARE – Zimbabwe is experiencing yet another shortage of the BCG vaccine meant to protect new-born babies from contracting Tuberculosis (TB), a snap survey conducted by the Daily News has revealed.
This has put thousands of babies born in the past two months at risk of contracting the disease, which is among the six infant killer diseases.
The Daily News noted that the vaccine was not available at major hospitals in the country, including Parirenyatwa Hospital, while it was being given in rations at polyclinics.
The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is supposed to be given to babies soon after birth, but some babies are now going for weeks or months without being immunised.
Efforts to get a comment from the minister of Health David Parirenyatwa and permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji were
fruitless yesterday, but parents told the Daily News of their ordeal as they seek to get the critical vaccination.
“My child was born early this month at Parirenyatwa (Hospital) and they told us they did not have a vaccine and referred us to council clinics,” one of the parents told the Daily News.
“Some of the clinics told us that they only had syringes but
not medicine and some have specific days where they give the vaccine.”
Some polyclinics in Mufakose, Mabvuku, and Budiriro were only vaccinating babies early in the morning at specific days while others in Budiriro and Kuwadzana did not have the vaccine at all.
Nurses at other polyclinics told the Daily News that they could only vaccinate 20 children at once on specific days as they had been given big bottles that could only be opened once.
While the vaccine is supposed to be given for free, some private institutions in the affluent suburbs are now charging parents about $25 for a dosage.
Presently, infant mortality is estimated to be at 55 deaths per 1 000 live births. This is the second time in six months the TB vaccine is in short supply in the country.
Reducing infant mortality is also among the Sustainable Development Goals, as the world seeks to improve access to health facilities to increase life expectancy and reduce some of the common killers associated with child and maternal mortality.