Doctors and their own medicine  Flu vaccine racket

Influenza scare at AIIMS as doctors

Durgesh Nandan Jha, TNN | Oct 9, 2012

NEW DELHI: AIIMS may be staring at a potential outbreak of influenza-like illnesses. Most doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences have refused to take the preventive vaccination against the influenza virus as, they claim, the vaccine is outdated and ineffective.

"World Health Organization (WHO) issues the guidelines after an extensive research each year on the potential strains of virus that can cause pandemics and the type of vaccine to be used. The recommendation for 2012-13 is a trivalent vaccine which covers three potentially pandemic causing viruses giving maximum protection. However, AIIMS has been using only the outdated monovalent vaccine, pandyflu, from 2010 that covers only one type of virus," said Dr Deepak Damodaran, vice-president of the AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association. He said the vaccines were reformulated each year due to the changing strains of the virus.

Delay in tendering could be the reason behind the non-availability of latest vaccines. "We have written to the director about this and he has forwarded our complaint to the medical superintendent," Damodaran said.

AIIMS spokesperson Dr Y K Gupta said the administration was getting the matter examined by experts. "We provide vaccines which are given to us by the Union health ministry," he said.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and can prove fatal in some cases. Swine flu, caused by H1N1 influenza virus, was declared an epidemic in India in 2009.

AIIMS doctors said some residents were already down with the infection. "Our biggest fear is that critically-ill patients may get infected with the virus if they come in contact with a doctor who has contracted the disease. It could prove fatal in some cases, for example elderly patients suffering from kidney failure or cancer patients," a doctor said.

Health experts say preventive vaccination, though recommended for health professionals, is not practised in most hospitals. "Few of our staff member take it. We cannot force anyone to get vaccinated," said a senior administrative official at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.