Govt seeks funds for drive against encephalitis

Kathmandu, September 30 :

The government is seeking more funds for next year’s Japanese Encephalitis (JE) Campaign. The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) under the Department of Health Services (DoHS) is in need of at least Rs 14 crore for the campaign to cover another 18 districts — 16 in the eastern region and two in the JE-endemic districts.

The JE campaign would be effective only if the programme is conducted at least 90 days prior to the outbreak of the disease. The time for the disease to strike is March and April.

“The programme can be more effective if we manage to get the funds in time, Dr Shyam Raj Upreti, chief of the EPI, said. “Getting resources has always been the most difficult task and we are doing our best,” Dr Upreti said.

Though UNICEF has shown interest in next year’s JE campaign, nothing has been finalised yet. “The Japanese government would provide the fund and UNICEF would distribute the vaccine as discussed earlier,” Dr Upreti said. He, however, added that the same is yet to be finalised.

He further said that the positive thing about the deal is that there would not be any delay in the procurement process, as the partner agency would directly provide the vaccine. This year, the partner agencies provided the fund and the government bought the vaccine, which led to the delay in the procurement process.

The campaign this year started in four hyper-endemic districts — Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Dang. Vaccine was administered to all population above 1 year of age. In Rupandhehi and Kanchanpur, the vaccine is being given to population below 15 years of age. The government has aimed at vaccinating 25 lakh population in the chosen districts.

This year, the government bought 35 lakh doses of live attenuated vaccine (SA-14-14-2) worth Rs 8 crore 24 lakh from the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products, China. It targeted all population in the four endemic districts and population below 15 years of age in two Terai districts.

According to the DoHS, the regular immunisation programme has helped check the increasing number of deaths and the number of people affected by JE. The vaccine is being administered since 1999.

Last year, 1,264 cases of the disease were reported. Eighty-eight of the patients died then. JE causes paralysis and brain damage leading to death. Each year around 3,000 get affected by the disease and around 300 people lose their lives in an average, according to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD). According to the DoHS, a total of 35,000 people have been affected by JE since 1978 and 5,843 have died.