Health min was in the loop regarding purchase of unapproved anti-rabies vaccine

Health Minister Veena George addressing the Legislative Assembly. File Photo

Kozhikode: Amid concerns over the efficacy of anti-rabies vaccines being administered in Kerala, it has been found that a vaccine which had not been cleared in tests by the Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) was bought and that too with the knowledge of the state government authorities, including the Health Minister.

The efficacy of the vaccine was doubted initially as a few people who were bitten by rabid dogs died even though they were administered anti-rabies shots. A major drive to inoculate canines and humans thus came under a cloud over the quality of anti-rabies vaccine procured by the State health authorities. The vaccination programme was in response to the increasing menace of stray dogs in public places in Kerala.

Now, documents obtained by Manorama under the Right to Information (RTI) Act reveal that claims of Veena George, the Health Minister of Kerala, in the Assembly and the Health Department regarding the purchase of unapproved anti-rabies vaccine have been proven false.

A meeting was held at the chamber of the minister on July 15 in which officials of the Kerala Medical Services Corporation Limited (KMSCL) took part had discussed the matter.

The documents also state that on July 12, the officials had informed the government that the state would be forced to buy vaccine stocks which were yet to be certified by CDL considering the high demand. Incidentally, the Health Minister later announced in the Assembly that the state had not purchased unapproved vaccines. Health Department officials also made a similar claim.

Hasty purchase

Meanwhile, KMSCL had noted in the ‘minutes files’ prepared by it on July 11 and 15 that the demand for the anti-rabies vaccine was rising in the state and the stocks were insufficient. It was only on June 6 that orders for the financial year 2022-23 were placed. The manufacturer needs 90 days to supply the vaccine after receiving the order and the company informed KMSCL that it had prepared 30,000 vials, but the CDL certificate was yet to be received.

Subsequently, KMSCL told the company to send 16,000 vials from this uncertified stock in order to meet the demand for the vaccine till August 15. On July 12, KMSCL requested the government to approve this move. At a meeting convened in the minister’s chamber on July 15, a decision was taken to entrust Sriram Venkitaraman, the then managing director of KMSCL, to take the necessary measures to solve the vaccine shortage.


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