Keep in Contact with Healthcare Facilities During Vaccine Shortages | Western Cape Government

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Keep in Contact with Healthcare Facilities During Vaccine Shortages

16 September 2013

Currently across South Africa, in the public and private sector, there is a shortage of oral polio vaccine, measles vaccine and hepatitis B-vaccine.

Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: “Recent media reports that allude to neglect on the part of Western Cape Government Health on stock management is mischievous and targeted to taint our good management reputation. The shortage is universal, and impacts directly on all our health care facilities that provide immunisation services.

"I have raised the matter of stock shortages with the National Minister of Health on several occasions, but to no avail. It is serious and I will put it on the agenda of the National Health Council for urgent attention."

The reason for the current short supply is that the immunisations failed the South African quality assurance tests.

The three vaccines that are out of stock are Hepatitis B, measles and the oral polio vaccine. It has been out of stock for three weeks.

We have been informed that the replacement stock is released from quarantine today and will be delivered as from Monday, 16 September.

Children who missed their scheduled immunisations due to this delay will be able to "catch-up" at their follow-up visits. Parents or carers are encouraged to keep in contact with their local clinics in this regard.

The Western Cape Government would like to thank parents for their patience during this time as we are trying to address the short supply of vaccines. We would like to encourage parents to keep in contact with local healthcare facilities to ensure that their child is administered the vaccine when stock levels return to normal.

Information on diseases that require immunisation:
Children in the age group 0 – 12 years receive the following vaccinations:

  • The oral polio vaccine protects the child from polio. This disease is caused by polio viruses that attack nerves, causing weakness or paralysis of the leg and/or arm and if severe, may involve respiratory or breathing muscles.
  • The measles vaccine protects the child from developing measles which causes high fever and a rash and can lead to diarrhoea and dehydration, deafness, eye complications, pneumonia, brain damage and even death.
  • Haemophilus Influenza Type B (Hib) is a serious illness that affects mainly children under the age of five years, and death from Hib disease is common in children under the age of one.
  • Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver, which can cause liver damage, liver cancer and death.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) starts with a headache, fever and cough. The strenuous coughing bouts make it hard for a child to eat, drink or even breathe.
  • Tetanus (lock jaw) occurs when a toxin produced by a tetanus germ from the soil enters a cut or wound. The germ can cause muscle spasms, breathing and heart problems, and death. The chances of dying from this condition are very high.
  • Diphtheria is a dangerous bacterial disease, which makes it difficult to breathe. Children who survive diphtheria disease suffer permanent damage such as blindness, deafness and brain damage.
  • The BCG vaccine given at birth reduces the risk of Tuberculosis (TB) which is a serious disease that can affect people of all ages.
  • The department also vaccinates against rotavirus (one of the viruses that cause diarrhoea) and pneumococcal disease (e.g. meningitis, sinusitis, otitis media, pneumonia, bacteraemia).
Media Enquiries: 

Hélène Rossouw
Spokesperson for Theuns Botha, Western Cape Minister of Health
Tel: 021 483 4426