Centre's decision after reviewing their capability to handle adverse effects

Even as the controversy over the introduction of pentavalent vaccine continues, six States have asked the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry to allow them to include it in the immunisation programme. The vaccine will protect children against meningitis and pneumonia.

The pentavalent vaccine is all set to be introduced in Tamil Nadu and Kerala shortly as the first batch of vaccines arrives by the month-end. The States that have sought the Centre’s permission to include the Haemophilus influenza type B in their immunisation programmes are Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Goa.

A final decision on the matter would be taken after the centre reviews capability of these States to handle adverse effects in case there are any. Kerala and Tamil Nadu were chose for the roll out because of their good track record in the universal immunisation programme. “A meeting has been called with the States to review the infrastructure to deal with adverse effects following immunisation,” according to P.K. Pradhan Union Health and Family Welfare Secretary.

The pentavalent vaccine will combine DPT (diphtheria - pertussis -tetanus), Hepatitis B and Hib. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) will supply the vaccine free of cost for 10 States for three years after which the Central government will take over the programme. The total cost for the three years procurement is approximately Rs 765 crore.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation had advised the Centre to roll out Hib in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which would be followed up later in other States. The six States that want to introduce Hib vaccine, too, have a very good track record of immunisation programme with the coverage touching over 90 per cent.

Some medical researchers are opposing its introduction in the universal immunisation programme arguing that the Hib vaccine does not offer much protection to children. The NTAGI, however, had recommended Hib's introduction in the UIP in 2009.