Probably My Child’s Vaccines Were Fake…..
The recent revelations about a production and distribution network of counterfeit vaccines has sparked widespread public concern. The findings angered and frustrated many people, especially those with small children.
“Any parent wants to give the best to their children. How come these people have the heart to distribute fake vaccines to kids?” Ujungberung, Bandung, resident Herliana, 32, said in an infuriated tone.
Ani, 31, who had just brought her child to the Budi Kemuliaan Hospital in Central Jakarta to get DPT and Polio II vaccines, was also angered by the news of the fake vaccines. She said she hopes the suspects in the case will get harsh sentences.
“They are endangering other people’s children to seek profit. Thousands of children have been harmed. This is just too much,” she said.
Ani said that parents like her would have no other choice, especially considering that the counterfeit vaccines are part of the basic immunization program for children. Parents are forced to revaccinate their children to ensure that they are free of disease, such as polio, measles, diphtheria and other illnesses.
One way Ani said she can avoid counterfeit vaccines is by choosing trustworthy healthcare facilities and professionals. She said she trusts the quality of doctors and service at the Budi Kemuliaan Hospital as she has twice given birth there. “Here all the doctors are of high quality and they are pro-normal birth. I am experienced with my 5-year-old firstborn. So, I just trust them,” she said.
She said she regrets that the existence of the counterfeit vaccine network was only discovered after 13 years, especially as vaccines are directly related to the country’s future generations.
“Vaccinations cannot be delayed and they will all be finished once a baby is 9 months old,” Ani said.
As previously reported, a number of vaccine brands that were counterfeited were Tuberculin, Pediacel, Tripacel, Havrix and Biosave. Up until Tuesday, the National Police criminal investigation division had named 15 suspects for their alleged involvement in producing and distributing the fake vaccines since 2003.
As harsh as possible
Wati, 32, a mother of a 2-week-old baby who was interviewed at Budi Kemuliaan Hospital, shared Ani’s sentiments. She said she hopes that the vaccine counterfeiters will get the harshest punishment possible for having endangered other people’s lives.
The daughter of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, Zannuba Arifah Chafsoh, popularly known as Yenny Wahid, said that ever since news of the fake vaccines spread she has been worried that her three daughters might have gotten the counterfeits. Her youngest daughter Raisa Isabella Hasna, 2, was vaccinated for chickenpox in a small clinic in Bogor, West Java, last year. Back then, there were shortages of several vaccines, including for chickenpox. “I contacted a number of hospitals in Jakarta, but they had no chickenpox vaccines. My doctor once even told me to vaccinate my daughter in Singapore,” said the Wahid Institute director.
“Now I am worried sick. I have this thought that my daughters might have gotten the fake vaccines,” said Yenny on Monday (27/6/2016). She then decided to consult with a pediatrician about whether her three daughters would need revaccination.
According to Yenny, the problem right now is not just about the counterfeit vaccines. “Based on my experience, many hospitals often experience shortages of vaccines. For example, at one time I could not find chickenpox vaccine anywhere for two years,” she said.
The shortage of vaccine stocks can entice people to produce and sell counterfeit vaccines. “The Health Ministry must supervise all clinics to ensure that only medically-tested vaccines are available. If the vaccine supply monitoring is poor, people can use the situation to make fake vaccines and mothers will surely try to search everywhere to find these vaccines,” Yenny said.
Mixed with traditional snacks
Apart from its authenticity, vaccine storage management across a number of hospital has been found to be improper, leading to a decrease of their quality.
In Makassar, South Sulawesi, for example, local health agency head Naisyah Azikin had led an inspection of two maternity hospitals and a regular hospital. Officials found that the two maternity hospitals did not implement standardized vaccine storage measures using a cold chain storage. Instead, the vaccines were stored in a household refrigerators.
During the inspection, the officials found that the refrigerators’ temperatures were not set at between two and eight degrees Celsius, as per vaccine storage regulations. In one of the maternity hospitals, vaccines were stored in the same space as traditional snacks, meals and chicken eggs.
In the one regular hospital that was inspected, the vaccines were not stored in a cold chain storage. However, as the refrigerator’s temperature was between two and eight degrees Celsius, it was considered acceptable by the Makassar health agency.
Naisyah said that her agency had confiscated all of the vaccines stored by the two maternity hospitals. Unstandardized vaccine storage measures, let alone mixing them with other items in one space, can decrease the vaccines’ quality and effectiveness in improving a human body’s immune system.
“The two maternity hospitals are also banned from providing vaccination services until they can obtain proper vaccine storage facilities,” Naisyah said.
Separately, KebonJeruk district public health center (puskesmas) head Sri Lestari said in West Jakarta that her puskesmas obtained its vaccine supply from the province’s and the municipality’s health agencies. All vaccines in this official distribution network are produced by state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Bio Farma.
Sri said that the counterfeit vaccines are not in themselves harmful products for patients. However, the products will not protect the patients from any illnesses. Apart from that, it is difficult to identify the differences between the authentic and counterfeit vaccines. “The scary part is that, if some years from now a big outbreak of diseases happens here, it may happen to recipients of the counterfeit vaccines,” Sri said.