Health department slams claims of children’s vaccine shortages

The North West health department has dismissed allegations that there is a shortage of children’s vaccines at three of its clinics in Mahikeng in the Ngaka Modiri Molema district.

North West health department spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethwane, said there are child vaccines in all health facilities in the province.

The alleged clinics to be affected were Magogoe, Montshioa Stadt, and Gateway Clinic.

“The North West department of health has confirmed the availability of child vaccines in all health facilities across the province,” said Lekgethwane.

Allegations of shortages are not factual

“This therefore renders the reported shortage of children’s vaccines not factual.

“The alleged shortage of child vaccines was reported to have affected three clinics in Mahikeng in the Ngaka Modiri Molema district.

“Upon further probing of the allegations, the affected clinics were reported to be Magogoe, Montshioa Stadt, and Gateway Clinic, located at the provincial hospital.”

Unfortunately, said Lekgethwane, all efforts to establish the veracity of the allegations proved futile, as available data and interviews conducted confirmed that there was never a period in recent times when there were no vaccines.

He confirmed that the department managed to maintain a satisfactory level of child vaccine availability at above 90% average for ages at birth (six weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks, six months, nine months, 12 months, 18 months, six years), grade 5 learners (nine years of age), and 12 years old.

Gaps in effective communication

“However, the department suspects that there could have been a gap in the effective communication regarding the introduction of a revised immunisation schedule that came into effect in January 2024,” he said.

“The introduction of the new schedule follows a phased-in, phased-out approach to new and old vaccines.

“According to the previous immunisation schedule, children were vaccinated against pertussis at the ages of six weeks, 10 weeks, and 14 weeks, with a booster dose at 18 months.

“The revised immunisation schedule includes pertussis-containing [TdaP] vaccines at the same ages with two additional doses at six and 12 years of age.

“The revised immunisation schedule also includes pertussis-containing vaccines in the immunisation schedule during pregnancy.

“The new Tdap vaccine is already being ordered and issued to facilities in the province.  There is currently a total of 7 974 x TdaP vaccines in stock in the province, which is a sufficient quantity in the transitioning process to the revised immunisation schedule as introduced.”

An intervention team has been set up

He said the health MEC, Madoda Sambatha, has established a medicine availability intervention team that has been given the responsibility of monitoring medicine stock levels.

“To date, the work of this team has been to assess and intervene in, among others, pharmaceutical supply chain issues, system effectiveness, distribution and delivery processes, storage capacity, human resources capacity, and safety issues.

“Health MEC Madoda Sambatha has indicated that the assessment has been conducted across the province, starting at the Mmabatho medical depot and moving into the pharmacies in hospitals and clinics.”

He said the intervention has immediately resulted in improved communication between the medical depot and pharmacy managers in health facilities.

Establishing mini-depots

Said Sambatha: “This is important for the speedy resolution of any bottlenecks in the distribution and delivery of medicine between the depot and health facilities.”

Lekgethwane added that the intervention team has also identified short- to long-term plans like establishing mini-depots in the districts and opening bulk pharmacies closer to the facilities.

“The new Dr Kenneth Kaunda district bulk pharmacy, which has recently been officially opened, will improve medicine storage and distribution capacity in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district,” said Lekgethwane.

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