Plenty of swine flu vaccines, not one volunteer to take them

On Day One of the swine flu vaccination drive for healthcare professionals, the BMC found the vaccine had no takers. Over 2,000 city-based professionals, who had worked in isolation wards and screening centres when the virus had first struck, had consented to taking the vaccine, but none turned up.

The screening ward in Kasturba Hospital, the nodal hospital for treatment of swine flu, has been converted into a vaccination centre. Doctors from the epidemiology cell waited in vain from morning till four in the evening. "Since Kasturba Hospital was the epicenter for swine flu during its peak, we have started the vaccination centre there. We have just opened the ward it will take at least three to four days for doctors and paramedical staffers like ward boys, nurses who are considered to be in the high risk category, and others to come. We have sent circulars to all BMC, state-run and private hospitals where swine flu cases were reported to send their medical professionals to Kasturba Hospital," said Dr Daksha Shah, head of the BMC's epidemiology cell.

The BMC vaccination programme comes 11 months after Mumbai had its first swine flu case, with the scare having gone and the cases having declined to nil.

Dr Shah, in charge of swine flu vaccination in Mumbai, said the vaccines are stored at 2-4C in the EPI department. Before the vaccines were procured from French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur by the Centre, experts had questioned whether medical professionals did need a vaccine and whether this vaccine, tested abroad, would be safe for Indians.

Some experts had expressed concern that the vaccine could have serious side effects like the Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) - a rare disease in which the body damages its own nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. A Central committee will deal with adverse effects, if any, following immunisation.

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