Cost of tardiness
The Health Ministry officials’ incompetence can be gauged through the fact that they fail to even utilise the money pledged by the international donors. The officials should not be allowed to get away easily for their ineptitude in case the immunisation drive against Japanese Encephalitis (JE) becomes ineffective this year as well. Lengthy bureaucratic hurdles are behind the untimely procurement of vaccines. Regrettably, this time around it took nine months to clinch the deal whereas last year, the World Bank-provided fund was allowed to lapse due to the delay in procurement. Which is why the situation is far from encouraging. Ideally, the JE vaccination should be administered in April and May, but it is unlikely to be delivered before June. Hence, there are high chances of the drive failing as vaccines need to be administered before the start of the pre-monsoon season, and if given after the outbreak of the diesease, the vaccines are practically useless. It is unfortunate that the officials try to find excuses for their inability to respond to emergencies.
Had the Department of Health Services inked the deal with a Chinese firm for 3.5 million doses of vaccine earlier than May 10, the drive could have succeeded. But more important is the need to create awareness about proper sanitation like avoiding stagnant pools of water and the proximity between sheds for livestock and people’s homes. Preparedness is equally important for averting this killer disease, even though the lack of awareness and poverty make these tasks particularly difficult. Unless those responsible for the failure to provide anti-JE services in time are not punished, the marginalised sections will continue to pay through their lives.