Sarah Opendi, the state minister for health in charge of general duties, said during their market surveillance, they traced some of the counterfeit vaccines to Kumate Diagnostics Ltd Kampala and Forever Green Enterprises in Old Kampala.
PIC: The State Minister for Health in charge of General Duties, Sarah Opendi showing fake Hepatitis B vaccines which are being sold on the market as the chairman National Drug Authority, Medard Bitekyerezo, looks on. This was during press conference at the Ministry of Health Kampala on March 18, 2018. (Credit: Ramadhan Abbey)
HEALTH | FAKE HEPATITIS B VACCINES
KAMPALA - The Ministry of Health and National Drug Authority (NDA) are investigating two companies over the supply of the suspected fake hepatitis B vaccines to private health facilities around the country.
However, the health ministry says the vaccines could actually have been genuine, but stolen from government health facilities and the labels changed by unscrupulous people.
While addressing the media, Sunday, at the ministry’s boardroom, Sarah Opendi, the state minister for health in charge of general duties, said during their market surveillance, they traced some of the counterfeit vaccines to Kumate Diagnostics Ltd Kampala and Forever Green Enterprises in Old Kampala.
She stated that they had established that Kumate is owned by two laboratory technicians, who are not licensed to supply the vaccines, while Forever Green is non-existent and the name could have been forged by scrupulous people to dupe Ugandans.
The eight health facilities found with the suspicious vaccines bought them from the above companies and other unlicensed dealers with fake addresses on the invoices and receipts.
The clinics where the vaccines were found include Mbarara Community Hospital, Divine Mercy, Mayanja Memorial, Family Doctors Clinic Ntungamo, Mbarara City Clinic, UMC Hospital Bukoto, Malcolm Healthcare Kisaasi and Kampala Medical Chambers on Buganda Road.
The vaccines are currently on supply in the districts of Mbarara, Mbale, Wakiso and Kampala.
UMC Bukoto has come out to say that they were supplied by the Joint Medical Stores (JMS) and do not have fake vaccines.
However, its claim was refuted by the NDA manager central region, Muhammad Lukwago, who told journalists that they had visited the clinic and found the fake vaccines.
Opendi said they trust JMS’s statement that they never supplied the clinic.
She added that they even contacted the Serum Institute of India to verify the batch numbers, but they also denied ever supplying the vaccines.
Vaccines might be genuine
Opendi also told journalists that the suspicious vaccines could actually be genuine and only re-labeled by scrupulous people for monetary gains.
“The vaccine could be genuine. From the ones we have in our custody, it seems they just scratched off the word ‘government of Uganda. Not for sale’. They could have stolen them from government hospitals and sold to the clinics,” Opendi said.
She stated that according to their preliminary investigations, the vaccines are not harmful.
So far three suspects have been arrested over the matter.
Medard Bitekyerezo, the NDA chairman, said they were going to take stringent actions against the health facilities involved.
The ministry has directed NDA to recall the 10ml vial of the vaccine from Serum Institute of India from all private facilities for testing to establish the contents.
Members of the public are advised to receive the vaccines from accredited private and government health facilities. These include Nsambya, Kibuli, Mengo, Rubaga, International Hospital Kampala, Norvik, Case and Nakasero Hospital.
“We shall advise the public on other facilities that have been cleared for Hepatitis B vaccination in two weeks,” Opendi said.
The ministry has also suspended vaccination camps for Hepatitis B by private providers until cleared by it and has directed District Health Officers and RDCs to ensure that the directive is complied with.
The accredited suppliers include Biological E represented by Gittoes, Glaxo SmithKline represented by Eris Ltd, Human Biologicals Institute represented by TATA (U), LG Life sciences, Sanofi Pasteur & Pasteur Merieux represented by Laborex, Serum Institute of India represented by Norvik Enterprises and Shantha Biotec represented by Laborex.
Currently, the prevalence of Hepatitis B infection among adults in Uganda stands at 4.3% (5.6% among men and 3.1% among women).