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Jul 09, 2010 at 12:11pm IST

H1N1 vaccines lying unused in Maharashtra

Mumbai: Even as swine flu vaccines hit medical stores in India, the doctors in Maharashtra refused to take them, expressing doubt over its effectiveness. They also fear the vaccine may have have long-term side effects on patients.

Nineteen deaths and over 200 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu are reported in Maharashtra alone over the last month. But the medical staff in the state are still hesitant to use the vaccine distributed by the central government.

Of the 34,300 doses of vaccine provided to Maharashtra, only 2055 have been administered, according to the Health department sources. The Panenza vaccines, imported from France, were given to the state in March and will expire by October. Fear of side effects like dizziness, nausea and loose motions is being cited for not using the vaccine. But only two of the over 2000 or 2055 vaccinated persons have so far shown these side effects.

Dr. T P Lahane, Dean of the JJ Governemnt Hospital here, says, "This is in form of injection. Indigenous one is a nasal spray. Doctors would therefore prefer to use this."

After vaccinating its medical staff, the state's next step was to vaccinate pregnant women who are in a high risk group. But expecting mothers like Bhavika Sawant say that when the doctors aren't taking the vaccine, why should they?

"Mera abhi 5th mahina chalu hai. Koi side effect ho gaya to... Mai risk nahi lena chahti," (I am five months pregnant and I cannot take any risk. I am scared of side effects) asks Bhavika Sawant.

Unfounded fears or simply nonchalance, either way the unused vaccines, at over Rs 300 a shot, will mean a wastage of over a crore of public money.