Government-run health centers in Kupwara district are facing an acute shortage of anti-rabies vaccine as dog bite victims are forced to buy it from the open market on high prices, or sent 100 kilometers away to Srinagar for treatment.
Officials at the SDH Kupwara say no vaccine supplies have reached it since one year during which time more than 1500 victims have visited it. But the hospital is running empty of anti-rabies vaccines.
During the last one month alone over 150 dog bite cases were reported in the district.
An official in the hospital said that three to five patients with dog bites visit every day, but only receive first aid.
A rare patient gets a single vaccine dose where five are required to be administered as full dose to ensure safety of a victim.
Mohammad Gulzar Shah from Trehgam visited SDH Kupwara for anti-rabies vaccine after his daughter was bitten by a dog few days earlier. But the medical staff turned him away saying they had no vaccine in the hospital.
“I am a farmer, after a day’s hardwork I hardly get paid 300 to 400 rupees, how can I afford 1600 rupees for these vaccines,” Shah said.
Official sources in the health department all primary health centers, sub-centers and even SDH Kupwara have faced shortage of anti-rabies vaccine for months.
“When I visited this hospital for the treatment the doctors asked me to get my child vaccinated. I have to buy the vaccine from the market as hospital don’t have the supply,” said Yasmeena, a resident of Kupwara whose child was bitten by a dog recently.
The vaccine is expensive and costs Rs 325 per shot, whereas in hospitals it is provided free. A dog bite victim needs five shots over a few weeks.
Anti-rabies vaccine must begin to be administered to a victim within 24 hours of a dog biting.
“I cannot afford to buy five vaccines from the market so I decided to travel to Sopore or Srinagar hospital for further treatment.” Yasmeena said.
An official at the SDH Kupwara admitted that attacks by canines have increased in the district in the recent past and private medical shops also were running thin on ati-rabies vaccine stocks.
“For last three months I tried to arrange some vaccines from outside the state, but now we too are facing acute shortage. I am trying to contact stores outside the state, but no one is providing us the stock,” said a shopkeeper outside the SDH Kupwara.
“This is a serious issue and needs to be looked into immediately.”
An official in the hospital said that the hospital cannot buy the vaccine on its own as medicines are supplied by the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited.
“Due to shortage of funds we hardly get few vaccines from the market which we provide to a few patients only and most of the patients have to get them from market,” the official said, adding a demand for the vaccine has been sent to the JKMSCL.
“We are waiting when they will provide us the supply but from one year we have not received any single vaccine.”