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Doctors raise alarm over pentavalent vaccine drive

Three deaths in Kerala in three weeks caused the alarm

Sreelatha Menon 

Doctors have raised an alarm over safety of Pentavalent vaccines for children introduced in two states and have asked the Health Ministry to immediately put a halt on the programme.

A single dose of the vaccine provides immunity against five diseases viz hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis, tetnus and hib disease a new addition to the routine immunization programme.

They have questioned the inclusion of a hib vaccine without even a trial. The vaccines have been introduced in Goa, Kerala and tamil Nadu and are being introduced in Haryana next.

The doctors said that three deaths were reported in Kerala in just three weeks and the government was continuing the programme without a pause. "When three deaths were reported in Vietnam, the country stopped the pentavalent programme," the doctors said in a letter to the Health Secretary.

Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the recommendation of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI). There were concerns about the safety of Pentavalent vaccine and therefore, the NTAGI mandated that data from the two states be reviewed after 1 year of introduction, before expanding the vaccine to other states.

"We are concerned that well before data from Kerala and Tamil Nadu was analyzed, it was introduced in Haryana at the end of last year. A death has already been reported from Haryana last week. The doctors said.

Deaths have occurred in Sri Lanka and Bhutan and Pakistan after the use of Pentavalent vaccine. In Bhutan vaccination was stopped for a year after eight deaths were reported. In Srilanka the investigation into deaths found no alternate cause for death.

Doctors said, "Deaths from Pentavalent are sporadic, meaning that thousands receive the vaccine with no reactions, but a few have died. When a drug is known to cause this form of fatal reactions, it is no longer permissible to give the medication to anyone without first testing to see if the person will react adversely. "

Doctors who signed the letter included Professor BM Hegde, Vikas Bajpai, Prof Amitav Banerjee, JP Dhadhich, Arun Gupta, K P Kushwaha  R Lodha, Prof S K Mittal, Prof Ritu Priya, Dr Jacob Puliyel, Dhiraj Shah, S Srinivasan.

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First Published: Thu, January 17 2013. 17:58 IST