Sunday June 6th, 2010 informationliberation.com
New vaccine doses arrive, but no takers (Indian Express)
A day after the civic-run Kasturba Hospital received 2,000 doses of the indigenous H1N1 vaccine, doctors at the hospital admitted that the earlier batch of imported vaccines meant for vaccination of healthcare professionals remained untouched.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad inaugurated Vaxiflu-S, manufactured by Zydus Cadila, in New Delhi on Thursday. He had even taken a shot of it.

Dr Daksha Shah, head of the BMC’s Epidemiology Department, said the earlier stock of the vaccine, manufactured by French company Sanofi Pasteurs, had found no takers for over two weeks since the vaccination drive started on May 19.

Shah attributed the lack of enthusiasm to two factors: “Though swine flu vaccines are not reported to have any side affects, there is still a sense of apprehension. More importantly, swine flu is no longer perceived to be an immediate threat. Hence people do not feel the urgency.”

Dr S S Sanyal, a Mumbai-based epidemiologist, said, “There is a risk of Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) from most vaccines taken to prevent swine flu. GBS is a nervous disorder that could lead to paralysis and even death. Though there is no concrete evidence for this threat so far, health workers are still wary.” Gynaecologist Dr Tapasi Chatterjee added: “Swine flu is treatable by Tamiflu. But there is no going back from GBS. Since the fear of swine flu has all but died, given the risk, I see no immediate need to volunteer.”

The BMC hopes the response to Vaxiflu-S will be better. Its Immunization Department along with Kasturba Hospital plans to set up two more nodal centres where these doses will be made available.

Siddarth Hospital in Goregaon and MT Agarwal General Hospital in Mulund will soon have the dosage for hospitals in the Eastern and Western suburbs, while Kasturba Hospital will handle the Central and South Mumbai areas. The latter has sent brochures to private hospitals that treated H1N1 patients. “We have got requests from medical colleges; 100 doses are being prepared for Hiranandani Hospital. We hope the situation will improve in a week,” Shah said.

But Dr Mangala Gomare, head of BMC’s Immunisation Department, fears the medics may have become complacent. “Few cases were reported in the second wave. Health officials could feel they have become immune to the virus.”