Democratic Alliance spokesman on health Dr Wilmot James said on Sunday he would write to Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to call on him to explain to the South African public why the country has run out of anti-tuberculosis vaccinations and to reassure the nation that the problem will not be repeated.

James said South African hospitals and clinics were still out of the only vaccine against tuberculosis (TB) known as BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) — in a country where TB was the leading cause of death.

“Sources within the Ministry of Health have revealed to the DA that there are chronic shortages of the BCG vaccine‚” he asserted.

BCG is usually administered at birth. It is on the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines‚ a list of the most important medication needed in a basic health system.

“Stats SA’s most recent figures of live births demographically suggest that an estimated 96‚763 babies are born monthly in our country. This number of babies‚ at the very least‚ are at risk of contracting TB.

“Dr Motsoaledi claims that there is a global BCG shortage‚ which is a reality we have to deal with. But the Minister did not obtain enough of a buffer supply to tide us over until new BCG supplies arrive‚” James stated.

As an emergency measure‚ the Medicines Control Council (MCC) had approved the importation of an unregistered version of BCG (known as a Section 21 application)‚ he said.

“The imported BCG hails from the Serum Institute in India. The WHO has given the Institute’s BCG what is known as a ‘pre-qualified’ approval and is safe to use.

“But the Institute’s BCG has not yet arrived. Thousands of babies therefore remain at risk. Dr. Motsoaledi must confirm when the BCG will arrive. He must also outline a planning model that will avert such a critical problem in the future‚” James added.