Namibia is experiencing a shortage of the Rotarix vaccine administered to infants between four and sixteen weeks, a medicine speficially used to prevent gastro-enteritis in children.
All local pharmaceticals have confirmed that they have not had Rotarix for the past three months, which leaves children born between September 2012 and present day, exposed.
However, deputy director for pharmaceuticals in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Lazarus Indongo denied any shortage of the drug.
Stephen Kangumbe, a nurse at the Baramasoni Clinic in the Kavango region, said children who are not vaccinated with this drug run the risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) at a later stage.
He said Rotarix is also used to fight measles and tetanus in infants, adding that he went to collect stock this week but only received enough to vaccinate one or two children.
Anne Shilongo a pharmacist at the Cottage Hospital in Swakopmund also reported a shortage of the drug. She however noted that the drug is not necessarily needed for the 4-16-week vaccination of children.
“We have a shortage. We do not have it but we hardly use it. It depends on the doctor. If he prescribe it then we dispense it but they do not always prescribe it,” she said.
In the meantime Dr Aziz a pediatrician argues that Rotarix is not an essential medicine pointing out that a child can still develop gastro-enteritis from other causes despite being vaccinated.
Dr. Aziz also mentioned that the Rotarix vaccine does not affect the child’s immunity against illnesses such as measles or TB adding that such illnesses often are caused if a child is already malnourished.
“It‘s not like it is very important to have the vaccine, every human being develops antibodies that helps them fight against illnesses. Rotarix is very good but it is not as important as the hepatitis vaccine that is prescribed by the United Nations.”
Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe diarrhea. It can also cause vomiting, fever and dehydration and is the leading cause of diarrhea in infants and young children. But Lazaruz Indongo, the deputy director at government pharmaceuticals said,“Rotarix is not registered in Namibia. It is in the pipeline of being registered we will have it during the next vaccination campaign. We did not have it on our Primary Health Care list. At the moment we are using Oral Rehydration, we are using the Standard procedure of Namibia.”