Vaccine troubles

WHO accedes to paediatricians' concern over Hepatitis B

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Friday 31 March 2006

Vaccine for whom? the inclusion of Hepatitis b vaccine in India's universal immunisation programme (uip) could be stayed till there is adequate data on the vaccine's efficacy. Following a meeting on March 3 in New Delhi, between who officials and Indian paediatricians, the un body said it would look into the doctors' concerns regarding the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the vaccine.

It said, if required, they would ask the Union government to hold off on implementing the programme.

India is in the process of introducing Hepatitis b vaccine in a phased manner. So far, the government has dismissed health experts' concerns regarding the vaccine, saying the programme follows who recommendations. who aims to introduce the vaccine in all the countries by 2007.

The paediatricians contend that though the vaccine needs to be given at the time of birth to ensure that the disease doesn't pass from mother to child, infants here are given this inoculation, along with the dtp vaccine, six weeks after birth. But, there is no information on this late inoculation's effectiveness. who as well as a 2003 pilot project in Andhra Pradesh, don't provide much information on this either.

Paediatricians at the meet called for an appraisal of the number of children immunised at birth, and status of the disease in those vaccinated at birth compared to those vaccinated at six weeks and those not immunised in areas where the programme has been introduced. Such a study is likely to take a year to complete.

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