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January 17, 2020

Drap official sacked for bid to sabotage anti-typhoid campaign

Karachi

January 17, 2020

A highly literate but equally controversial official of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has been dismissed from service by the authorities, who had allegedly launched a “malicious campaign” against a vaccination drive launched by the authorities last year to prevent the spread of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid in the country, The News has learnt.

“Dr Obaid Ali, a BS-18 officer working as deputy director at the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, has been dismissed from service on charges of absence from service, misconduct and providing wrong information to media, but actually he has been fired for his malicious campaign against the recently-held vaccination drive against typhoid in the country,” an official of the National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination told The News on Thursday.

Pakistan became the first country in the world to vaccinate over 10 million people in the province last year after over 13,700 children were found infected with XDR typhoid, including 5.2 million children in 192 union councils of Karachi.

The export of XDR typhoid cases to other countries and regions of the world, including Europe and the United States, compelled the health authorities in Pakistan to plan a massive vaccination campaign in the province to contain the spread of the deadly, drug-resistant typhoid.

Federal health authorities said that despite spending huge resources to vaccinate millions of children against the deadly disease, a smear campaign was launched in the local media, which misled several parents and some of them even refused to get their children vaccinated against typhoid, citing officials like Dr Obaid Ali, who termed the campaign a conspiracy against the people of Pakistan.

“The said officer, Dr Obaid Ali, illegally wrote a letter to the director general schools in Sindh and raised questions about the safety and efficacy of the typhoid vaccine. In Pakistan, people are already reluctant to vaccinate their children against polio and a letter by a senior, so-called educated person raising questions about the WHO-approved typhoid conjugate vaccine further damaged not only the typhoid vaccination drive, but also lowered people’s trust in the polio vaccine,” the official said.

Health officials said international health and donor agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef and GAVI, which were helping Pakistan in eradicating polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases, were highly perturbed over the “nefarious and malicious propaganda” against the vaccines and also requested them to take up the matter seriously.

When contacted, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza fully supported the dismissal of the DRAP official, saying that “I now fully stand behind the decision of the inquiry committee”.

In response to queries regarding the dismissal of Dr Obaid Ali from service, he said: “This dismissal is the result of a thorough official inquiry, keeping in view the misconduct of the dismissed person over the years in terms of unreported and unjustifiable long absences from his office and habitual misreporting in the media against his own organisation. As a public servant, this could not be ignored any further. There are various instances in which he deliberately and highly irresponsibly went public with the inner official working of his own organszation, circulated wrong information about medical products and public health campaigns, and maligned his colleagues, which negatively affected public perceptions. Not taking effective notice of this ongoing misconduct would have amounted to not fulfilling our mandated responsibilities and contributing to misgovernance.”