Lufuno Nthangeni’s son is almost 20-months-old. But he hasn’t received an essential vaccine he should have gotten at 18-months-old. She says she has been to several clinics in the past few weeks, hoping that her son would finally receive the DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine.

Nthangeni, like many other mothers, aren’t able to afford the vaccine at private clinics and pharmacies.

A provincial shortage of the shot 

Some clinics in rural Limpopo are experiencing shortages of DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine which is given to babies when they turn 18-months-old and the PCV3 vaccine, given when babies are 9-months-old. 

The DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type B, which can lead to serious and sometimes fatal diseases. This vaccine is given to children when they turn 18-months-old as a booster dose for babies who have completed the three dose primary series at 2-, 4-, and 6-months-old. 

While the PCV3 vaccine is important because it protects children against a variety of serious illnesses, it also helps prevent illnesses from spreading to other children. 

One mother says that her son hasn’t received the vaccine he should have gotten two months ago. File photo.

The concerning health implications 

“I have been going to the local clinics almost every week for the past six weeks hoping that I will find the vaccine but I every time I get there, they always tell me stories that they don’t have the vaccine and they are not sure when it will be available but I have to come a check all the times. I get worried because I don’t know how this will negatively affect the health of my son,” says Nthangeni.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) “immunisation is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and is estimated to avert between 2 and 3 million deaths each year as it is one of the most cost-effective health investments, with proven strategies that make it accessible to even hard to reach and vulnerable populations”.

Nthangeni is worried that her son hasn’t received the vaccine he should have gotten two months ago. “What if he gets sick because of not having received the vaccine on time? I have been told that the vaccine is available at private pharmacies, but it is very expensive and some of us who rely on public health facilities cannot afford [it even] though the lives of our children are at risk.”

The clinics experiencing the shortage include: Magwedzha Clinic in Dumasi village, Sibasa Clinic in Makwarela, and Thohoyandou G Clinic. 

Ntovhedzeni Begwa says she is tired of traveling to Magwedzha Clinic for weeks, only to be told that the vaccine is not available. “My son was supposed to have already received injection, but it hasn’t happened. I am worried that this might make him sick as I am not sure what [it protects him against], but I have been told that it is important.”

She adds: “The other thing is that I have been losing money because I have to catch two taxis in order to get to the clinic. They always promise us that the next time we visit the clinic the vaccine will be available. I have even gone to the mobile ambulance which visits villages monthly, but they also said that they did not have the vaccine.”

Spokesperson for the provincial department of health, Neil Shikwambana didn’t respond to questions at the time of publication. – Health-e News