Two top pediatricians have strongly advocated the introduction of pentavalent (five-in-one) vaccine into the national immunisation programme citing a consensus on the issue by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP).

“The national consensus has been in active existence since last then years and there is an urgent need to wake up and immunise every infant with three doses of pentavalent vaccine,” Dr. Mrudala Phadke, former Vice Chancellor of Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) told PTI.

“We already have diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus in our national programme and addition of two more components - Hepatitis B and Heamophilus Influenzae (Hib) will automatically cover five diseases in the same injection,” Dr. Phadke along with Dr. Uday Bodhankar, former IAP President and now Secretary General of Common Wealth Association for Health & Disability, said.

Vaccinations against Hib have known to decrease early childhood meningitis and pneumonia significantly in developed and recently in developing countries.

Throwing light on the need to include these two diseases in the programme, Dr. Bodhankar said, “in terms of morbidity, a child who develops meningitis may remain as handicapped as a child of poliomyelitis in terms of paralysis, and may also suffer from mental and hearing impairment.”

“A child with pneumonia and meningitis is likely to have more mortality if not treated. Pediatricians in the country are struggling hard to eradicate poliomyelitis (polio or infantile paralysis). But efforts are needed to fight the other two diseases in infants by giving pentavalent vaccine,” they contended.

A study conducted in six academic hospitals in the country showed that Hib diseases occur in the country predominantly in children below five years with fatality rate of 30 percent in meningitis and 11 percent overall. This epidemiological evidence is sufficient enough to introduce pentavalent vaccine in our national programme, they said.

Also, more than 150 countries in the world are using pentavalent vaccine and the cost factor involved is non-existent when compared with logistics of administering nearly 20 doses of oral polio drops, door to door campaigns and pulse immunisation programmes, Dr. Phadke, a former professor of B. J. Medical College, Pune said.

Dr. Bodhankar said common illness among children include fever (27 percent), acute respiratory infections (17 pc), diarrhoea (13 pc) and malnutrition (43pc). And childhood morbidity is directly related to prevalence of malnutrition.

The government had launched the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) in 1978 and, then Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in 1985 which included measles vaccination.

Also, immunisation coverage for three killer diseases - diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DTP coverage) jumped from less than 30 percent in 70s to 55 percent in 1999 and later to 62 percent in year 2007, Dr. Phadke said.

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