Rabies cases have been rising in Sindh and the shortage of anti-rabies vaccine is hitting hospitals hard. Supplies of the vaccine from India have been short, but there are problems with importing from alternative supplier China, experts say.
“China provides one anti-rabies product in the market but it is not approved by the WHO or FDA,” said medical importer Usman Ghani on SAMAA TV’s programme Naya Din on Thursday.
He added there wasn’t a complete shortage of anti-rabies medication in the market. Apart from the vaccine, immunoglobulin medicines and serums were administered in category two and three dog bites which are still available, he said.
Category two and three bites are those where a patient bleeds from the bite wound, Ghani explained.
Recently there was a shortage of anti-rabies vaccines because bilateral trade with India was suspended, he said, adding that life-saving vaccines have now been exempted.
Ghani said two WHO-approved products were lying with the ministry but hadn’t been released in the market due to an issue of pricing.
Regarding the demand in the market, Ghani said there was no database that determined the exact requirement of ARV vaccine, but roughly at least 10 million to 12 million vials were needed every year.
Currently, we are only importing only 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 vials, he said.
Most people are not aware that rabies is a contagious disease, said Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of Jinnah Medical and Postgraduate Centre. She said there was an urgent need to create awareness in the community.
“If someone is bitten, they should wash the site with water and immediately go to a medical facility where ARV is available,” Dr Jamali advised.
Delaying treatment could prove to be fatal, she said, referring to the recent case of a boy’s death in Larkana. If the vaccine wasn’t available at one centre, go to other centres until you receive treatment, she urged.
The incubation period—the time it takes for symptoms to develop after exposure— for rabies is around four weeks, Dr Jamali said, after which there was no cure for it anywhere in the world.
She also said anyone who had come in contact with a patient with rabies needed to get a preventive vaccine as soon as possible.