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Anti-rabies vaccine: Delhi gets a shot in the arm

An Indian Army vet administers the anti-rabies vaccine to a dog.
An Indian Army vet administers the anti-rabies vaccine to a dog.

The Delhi government will procure 80,000 vials of the anti-rabies vaccine to address shortages statewide.

The Cabinet approved the decision, including an ex-post facto approval of an earlier decision to purchase 40,000 doses of the anti-rabies vaccine. The procurement will take place on an emergency single-bid basis, as shortages in hospitals have been reported throughout the year. 

In one example, 1,000 people turned to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi for shots of the vaccine earlier this year, compared to 200 who sought it the year before. Vaccine shortages in other state-run hospitals in the national capital were pinpointed as the reasons behind the uptick. The requirement for the anti-rabies vaccine in Delhi stands at 30,000 vials monthly. 

“Currently, there is an acute shortage of this vaccine in Delhi hospitals since the Central Procurement Agency (CPA) could not procure them due to several reasons — withdrawal of rate contract by the bidder, poor availability of ARV in the open market and single bid participation in the CPA open tender,” the state government said in a statement. Previous efforts to plug shortages of the anti-rabies vaccine in Delhi have included procuring 50,000 vials from the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation. 

Anti-rabies vaccine shortages are present in almost every state and union territory in India, the deficit ranging from twenty to eighty percent. To address the issue, the Union Health Ministry moved to cap ban exports of the vaccine by domestic manufacturers of the vaccine with firms allowed to export only thirty percent of their products.

Despite being entirely vaccine-preventable, rabies killed every person it came into contact with in India in 2017. Almost 21,000 lives are lost to the disease every year, accounting for one-third of mortality due to the disease worldwide. Rabies vaccine shortages are one reason behind this. Steps to procure vials of the vaccine as is being undertaken by the Delhi government are vitally needed in the interest of public health.

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