Vaccine shortages concerning parents in Dubai

Private clinics in Dubai are running out of a vaccine that protects infants against six serious medical conditions.

Many parents are worried that their children are waiting to be vaccinated. Antonia Reeve / Getty Images
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DUBAI // Private clinics in Dubai are running out of a vaccine that protects infants against six serious medical conditions.
Many have waited months for stocks of Infanrix Hexa, but public hospitals still have supplies.
The vaccine, DPT, is given to infants at 2, 4, 6, and 18 months.
It protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus and Hemophilus influenza B. Children are given a booster before starting school.
Some children have had the first set of vaccinations but when they returned for the next set the clinics were out of stock, so the process is not complete, leaving children vulnerable.
Gulf Drug, one of three main suppliers to private clinics, is out of stock and does not expect a shipment until at least late next month.
A spokesman for Mediclinic Middle East, which operates two hospitals and eight clinics in Dubai, said vaccine shortages were "a common problem, not just here but all around the world".
Infanrix Hexa is made by the international company GlaxoSmithKline. Company representatives were unavailable for comment.
Ashley Davies, 29, a Scottish expatriate who lives in Dubai Marina, has been trying since September to have her eldest child Archie, 4, vaccinated. Her daughter Rosie is due for her four-month jab soon.
"I am not that worried about Archie missing out as he has had most of his jabs in the UK and just needs a booster," she said.
"It is more worrying for Rosie as she is just 10 weeks old. I have already heard from other mums that her vaccinations are out of stock in many clinics.
"She was born prematurely so her immune system is not as good as it should be. It could be a problem."
Katie Hunt, 34, who lives in Arabian Ranches, said parents were talking about the shortage. Her eldest child Lily is 3 years old and not affected, but Reuben, 9 months, is due for more vaccinations soon.
"I know other mums have been told some jabs are unavailable, including the combined vaccination children should have," said Ms Hunt, from England.
"It is not so much of a worry that they may pick up an infection but the strict schedule for boosters may be missed."
Without vaccination, the likelihood of infection increases and the seriousness of any infection depends on a child's immune system.
"Vaccination is very important for children of 18 months," said Dr Althi Ghanem, a family doctor in Jebel Ali. "Their immune system is low and not well developed so they are more susceptible to infections.
"To avoid complications, children should stick to the vaccination schedule. However, if there is a short delay, it should not create too much of a problem. They can have a booster later."
Routine immunisation is started as early as possible in babies. If jabs are missed, there is a catch-up schedule depending on the child's age and the prevalence of specific diseases at the time.
Dr Suruchi Bajaj, a paediatrician at the Jebel Ali Lifeline Hospital, said its clinic was fully stocked.
"There is an occasional shortage of these vaccinations but by and large it is OK," Dr Bajaj said. "It is very important that children get the DPT vaccine at 18 months.
"These are all preventable diseases if the vaccinations are done on time. If a child has missed the schedule, then parents should always follow up with a doctor."
Dr Sami Manna, acting head of preventive services at the Dubai Health Authority, said government hospitals and clinics had no supply problems and were operating as normal.
nwebster@thenational.ae