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Syringes shortage hits vaccination programme

Lesotho has failed to vaccinate thousands of babies born in the last few months after it ran out of syringes, thepost heard this week. The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is critical to ensure all children are protected against tuberculosis and other mycobacterial infections.

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The vaccine is given to all healthy babies within the first 12 months.

Lesotho has the highest TB incidence rate globally with an estimated 654 cases per 100 000 for a population around two million, according to Partners-in-Health, a social justice organisation that provides high-quality health care globally to those who need it most.

Several midwives told thepost that for months now, mothers have been sent home after giving birth without their babies being vaccinated.
This is because the health centres do not have the hypodermic syringes and the Health Ministry does not even know when they will be available.

The issue came to the national spotlight this week after the spokesman of the newly formed United African Transformation (UAT) party, Francis Ramosetle, spoke about it.

The Ministry of Health at first however rejected Ramosetle’s charges saying “it is not true that there is a lack of vaccines in the country”.

Tumisang Mokoai, from the health ministry, said Lesotho had lots of vaccines for BCG. He did not address the issue of lack of hypodermic syringes which meant that the ministry could not administer the vaccine.

The ministry then admitted that it had run out of the hypodermic needles with the spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mosebekoa, saying a speedy procurement of the syringes “cannot be guaranteed because it involves a long process”.

Mosebekoa said the National Drug Service Organisation (NDSO) relies on the supplies donated by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) because the country does not directly buy the syringes.

“We are hoping that the syringes will be available soon because requisitions have already been made,” Mosebekoa said.

Mosebekoa admitted that the ministry had failed to administer the vaccines to babies but added that they can still get the vaccine within the first 12 months.
She again admitted that all the infants who were born recently were still to be vaccinated due to the shortage of the syringes.

“We follow long procedures that delay us,” she said.

A midwife in Leribe who asked not to be named told thepost that the vaccine has not been given to babies for over three months now.

“Mothers have been sent back home without their babies getting the vaccines at the hospitals,” she said.

She added that without the vaccine, babies would be susceptible to getting infections from tuberculosis and other diseases.
“This is not fair, the vaccine is a basic need,” she said.

Another midwife, Lahliwe Kao, said the vaccine has to be administered within six months.

“That vaccine is very important, that is why everyone has to get it. Not vaccinating your children could cause them problems like TB,” Kao said.

She complained that there are other vaccines that infants have to get after getting the BCG and “they will not get those doses since they would not have received the BCG”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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