Government hospitals may run short of DPT vaccine

By Vishal Gulati,IANS,

Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) : Government hospitals in India are likely to face shortage of the DPT (diphtheria pertussis tetanus) vaccine as the state-run Central Research Institute (CRI) here is unable to meet its targets for want of staff.

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DPT vaccination is part of the Indian government’s national immunisation programme. It’s administered to children free of cost in government hospitals and dispensaries.

A CRI official told IANS that the central government’s target of producing 100 million DPT doses in the current fiscal year would not be met, mainly due to staff shortage.

“In the past four-and-a-half months, the institute has produced only 140 lakh (14 million) doses. There is a huge gap between the target and the actual production,” said the official, requesting anonymity.

CRI’s licence was suspended by the Drugs Controller General of India in January 2008 as it was not found in compliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) norms for manufacturing.

However, the government allowed CRI Kasauli to restart production last year after it upgraded its machinery and laboratories by spending Rs.50 crore (Rs. 500 million), according to norms of WHO’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

“And whereas the entire matter has been carefully considered by the government…now, therefore, the central government, in exercise of its powers… hereby orders revocation, with immediate effect, the suspension of the above licence,” the health ministry said in its order March 2, 2010, for CRI Kasauli.

“The appellant institute shall ensure that the production line is made fully compliant with GMP standards within three years from the date of the issue of this order,” it added.

CRI director H.G. Brahmne admitted that the institute is far behind its target in the production of DPT vaccine.
“The institute is suffering mainly due to staff shortage. Now, we have the latest machinery and other infrastructure but there is a shortage of manpower,” Brahmne said.

“We need more employees to meet WHO standards – right from supervision to technical to quality control. With the existing, we are not in a position to achieve the targets,” he added.

However, the CRI received a setback this month when the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) disallowed it to make any fresh recruitment on a contract basis.

The CAT order came following the plea by regular employees that the appointments on contractual basis are blocking their promotional avenues.

The matter is listed for next hearing Sep 1.

The 104-year-old CRI manufactures more than 15 vaccines, including DPT, measles, typhoid, tetanus and anti-sera vaccines.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])