The five-in-one pentavalent vaccine will be rolled out in Tamil Nadu from December 17, Health Department officials have said. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been chosen by the Centre to introduce the vaccine in the national immunisation programme.

After the official inauguration by Health Minister V.S. Vijay at Vellore, it will be introduced into the regular Wednesday immunisation schedule on the field from December 17, the officials said. A total of 12 lakh doses of the vaccine ‘Pentavalent,' procured from Serum Institute, has already arrived in the State and have been disbursed to the various field centres. In December alone, about 90,000 children will be immunised with the pentavalent vaccine.

The vaccine provides protection against – Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) infections – in a single shot. The pentavalent vaccine will replace the current Hepatitis B and DPT vaccinations in the immunisation programme during the 6{+t}{+h}, 10{+t}{+h} and 14{+t}{+h} week after birth, health experts said during a media interaction programme organised here by the UNICEF.

Speaking on the occasion, Principal Secretary, Health, Girija Vaidyanathan, said there was a definite case for a vaccine for Hib, a bacterium that causes severe infections that can be life threatening or lead to severe disability. Parents will welcome the pentavalent vaccine for the primary reason that it will bring down the number of pricks the child gets during vaccination, according to Director of Public Health R.T. Porkaipandian. It will be given only to children coming to the centres for the first dose of DPT, not those coming for booster doses, explained K. Vanaja, joint director, Immunisation. Satish Gupta, health officer, UNICEF Delhi, said Hib had an excellent safety record, and had been proven to be over 95 per cent efficacious against invasive diseases. Chandrakanth Lahariya, National AEFI Focal Person and New Vaccines Focal Person at World Health Organisation, traced the path the decision to introduce the pentavalent vaccine took.

Yuvaraj J, scientist, National Institute of Epidemiology, said two sites for bacterial meningitis surveillance were ongoing in Kerala, and five in Tamil Nadu. J. Kumutha, head of Neonatology, Institute of Child Health, Siva Prakasam, State president, Indian Academy of Paediatrics spoke

Experts agreed that safety and efficacy of the vaccine would continue to be of concern to the public health department and that close monitoring was essential.