ISLAMABAD - The government seems to be loath to overcome Expended Programme on Immunisation (EPI) deficit, though dangers of outbreak of various diseases loom large. The situation may worsen due to the influx of displaced people and weather vagaries.

The central programme has been in need of around Rs3.3b and officials see shortage of various vaccines in two-and-a-half months if the amount would not be released.

The information says that out of total deficit, Rs1.046b has been lapsed due to non-release by the Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) in 2011. This fiscal year, the EPI was allocated Rs2.7b and officials said the allocations remained stagnant for years, resulting in up to Rs2.255m shortfall. Three years on, the sector is still coping with the aftermath of devolution as confusion still persists regarding mechanism of procurements, an EPI official said on anonymity. “The Planning Commission refuses to allocate additional grant for EPI on the pretext that provinces are allocated funds according to their share while provinces ask the federal programme to procure vaccines for them until 2015. The commission does not feel the heat,” added the official.

 A supplementary grant will be requested to beat the shortfall and for this Project Cycle (PC-I) is being prepared for various programmes including EPI, maintained Health DG Jahanzeb Aurakzai. “As the federal government is responsible for vaccine procurement till June 30, 2015 hopefully the additional grant will be released” he said. For routine immunisation, the EPI programme procures vaccines of nine diseases - poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tuberculosis, tetanus, measles, hepatitis-B, Hib Meningitis and pneumonia - but the government contribution to the purchase stands 7 per cent and 93 per cent vaccines are provided by Bill Gates’ GAVI Alliance.

According to WHO, routine vaccination coverage is still suboptimal for achieving the desired goals.  According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2012-13, the national immunisation coverage rate is 54pc, whereas, the regional data highlight areas of concern with only 16pc children fully immunised in Balochistan and 29pc in Sindh in 2012-13. The proportion of fully vaccinated children in Capital, Punjab, KP and GB is 74, 66, 53 and 47pc respectively.