Four children in Kerala reportedly died immediately after the vaccine was administered
The Union health ministry has approved inclusion of pentavalent vaccine under the universal immunization programme (UIP) in five more states. In doing so the ministry has overlooked the controversy over the safety of the vaccine and the debate whether it is required at all.
The decision to this effect was taken by the mission steering group (MSG), a decision making body of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) under the health ministry, on April 16. Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry will administer the vaccine starting October 2012. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have already included the vaccine under UIP from December 2011. The pentavalent vaccine prevents diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis b and haemophilus influenza-type b in children.
Four children in Kerala are reported to have died in December immediately after the vaccine was administered. But brushing aside safety concerns, the ministry decided that Kerala and Tamil Nadu would continue to use the vaccine.
“After acknowledging the significance of haemophilus influenzae b (Hib) vaccination, a decision was taken to continue inclusion of Hib vaccines in UIP as liquid pentavalent vaccine (DPT+ Hep B+ Hib) in Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” says the release of the Union health ministry.
“Pentavalent vaccine is important for the state. One vaccine will protect children from five diseases. We had sent a request to the health ministry for introduction of pentavalent vaccine. We still have not received any confirmation from them that it has been approved,” says Anju Sharma, director (NRHM), department of health and family welfare in Gujarat.
Meanwhile, the medical community is divided on the introduction of pentavalent vaccine.
“There is very little published scientific data in India that shows the prevalence of Hib in the country. The incidence of Hib is 0.007 per cent. On the other hand, there is enough evidence that says that children develop immunity in their infancy against Hib. Then why is government taking such decisions based on assumptions?” asks Y Madhavi, scientist with the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies in New Delhi.
Read also: Vaccine woes continue
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