Liberia: Lack of BCG Vaccines for Babies Sparks Fear In Parents

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Monrovia – Scores of parents have expressed concern over the total lack of the BCG vaccine at health centers across the country.

The BCG vaccine (which stands for Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) is an injection given to children and people who have a higher risk of catching TB. It helps the child’s immune system fight bacteria that cause TB and helps stop them from getting serious TB disease.

In Liberia, the BCG vaccine is given to an infant on the first day of birth. But FrontPage Africa has discovered that the vaccine, which is compulsorily given together with the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) has run out completely.

The situation is causing fear among many parents. “I am afraid because I have a child and the vaccine should be administered just hours after birth. It is troubling and serious,” said Cee-Preme Kollie a father of a month old baby.

Kollie told FrontPage Africa that his child was born at a local hospital in Paynesville but he and his wife were told by nurses that the Vaccine has run out and was not in the country.

His wife, Roseline Mulbah explained they have been ‘trying their luck’ at several hospitals but the message is the same everywhere – no BCG.

“As a mother, I am feeling very, very discouraged because it is not safe for our babies to not take the vaccine at all. I am worried because we have not been told when the vaccine will arrive. We have gone to many hospitals for the vaccine but it is not available,” she said.

When contacted, the Ministry of Health, through its Communications Director, Felecia Gbesioh, confirmed that the vaccine has run out, but arrangements are being made with the Ministry’s partners including Unicef to bring in the vaccine by the end of May, this year. She said the vaccine drought is due to shortage in global supply chain.

“This is a global issue. It is actually not in the country but we expect to have it in the country before the end of May. We have been in a back and forth conversation and engaging our partners; especially UNICEF because they are responsible for the distribution of the vaccine. And there is no need to worry because the vaccine is for children from zero to eleven months. There will be no side effect if the vaccine comes at the end of this month. So no need to panic,” she said.

There have been reports of some health facilities selling the vaccines to parents. But Gbesioh said the Ministry was not aware of such a “wicked” practice. She said the vaccine is distributed free of charge, and as such no health facility should sell it.

“If that is happening, then it is a wicked behavior because this vaccine we are talking about is given free of charge. And the Ministry is not aware of such practice.”

Meanwhile, the lack of the BCG vaccine and the disruption in the administering of the polio vaccine come in the wake of an outbreak of wild poliovirus in Mozambique last week.

This marks the second imported case of wild poliovirus in southern Africa this year, following an outbreak in Malawi in mid-February, said the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.

“The detection of another case of wild polio virus in Africa is greatly concerning, even if it’s unsurprising, given the recent outbreak in Malawi. However, it shows how dangerous this virus is and how quickly it can spread,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa.

Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region.

However, amid the new outbreak, African health ministers have begun seeking ways of ramping up measures to halt the outbreak of Wild Poliovirus Type 1 in southern Africa, where the virus has been detected in two countries and a large-scale multi-country vaccination campaign is underway.

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