Cairo — Tens of thousands of children are at risk because of a vaccine shortage in Egypt, paediatricians warn.
"The longer the government fails to immunize these children, the more vulnerable to disease they are," Eman Masoud, head of the Paediatrics Section at Abul Riesh University Hospital in Cairo, told IRIN. She said a delay of more than one or two months in obtaining vital vaccines like MMR, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, can put children's lives in peril.
Over the last two weeks, parents have lined up at many of the government's 5,000 health offices which vaccinate children for free, only to be told: "The vaccines are not available." (Shots are, however, available for the equivalent of US$50 at private clinics.)
According to an independent medical advocacy group, Supervisors against Corruption, the Health Ministry was forced to withdraw many vaccines from its shelves after discovering they were expired, leading to the shortage. Health Minister Mustafa Hamed says the shortage is a result of administrative delays in the delivery of the vaccines by former Health Ministry officials, and has promised to make the vaccines available as soon as possible.