Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva warned the trade unions in the health sector and opposition politicians against seeking mileage from health issues.
Addressing a Press Conference at the Ministry Auditorium yesterday, the Minister denied the accusations by trade unions and rival politicians that the government was importing substandard Rubella vaccines and it had caused the recent death of a student in Kurunegala. The Rubella vaccine was imported from the World Health Organisation certified Serum Institute of India which provides the same vaccine to European countries too.
`If we are importing some drug, first, it must be registered with the Sri Lanka Drug Regulatory Authority. Then it would be recommended by the Drug Evaluation Sub Committee of the Ministry and we have to import the drug from a WHO certified manufacturer. Finally, we have to follow the tender procedure. When the Ministry called the tender only the Serum Institute of India presented the bid because it is the only WHO certified Rubella vaccine manufacturer in the World. Politicians are not involved in the process, as trade unions claim and all was done by the experts in the field,` Minister de Silva said.
He said that after a school girl died in Matara, after taking the Rubella vaccine few months ago, the Ministry introduced new guidelines for the provincial health authorities to follow, If a student develops an allergy after taking the vaccine. The Ministry trained MOHs to treat an allergy and distributed 200 emergency trays all round the island too.
`In this context, there couldn t be negligence on the part of the medical staff which gave the vaccine to the student. The Ministry has already commenced an investigation into the death of the student and this is being handled by a panel of experts. After the investigation, we will take a disciplinary action against the culprits, according to the Institutional Code. They will be punished under the Criminal Law of the country,` the Minister said.
Country Representative of the WHO Dr. Firdosi Rustom Mehta said that the Serum Institute is the only WHO pre-qualified Rubella vaccine manufacturer in the world and however, WHO is also conducting an investigation against the Serum Institute of India on the quality of the vaccine. It is being handled by the global experts in the field.
`The information they asked for had been sent. They will take the samples of the vaccine from same batch for the investigation,` he said.
Dr. Mehta said that Rubella is still being reported in Sri Lanka. Congenital Rubella Syndrome leads to blindness, deafness and major abnormalities in the heart in new born babies if their mother has the disease. The Sri Lankan immunization programme has helped to reduce the disease.
Secretary to the Health Ministry Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage, Additional Secretary Dr. Nihal Jayatilaka, Director (Public Health) Dr. Palitha Mahipala, Assistant Epidemiologist Dr. Rishintha Premaratne also attended the Press Conference.