Dismissing reports of deaths of some children after administration of pentavalent vaccine in Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Pakistan as unrelated, the Centre will introduce this vaccine as part of the routine immunisation programme in Kerala on Wednesday. The vaccine that will prevent children from five life threatening diseases will be introduced in Tamil Nadu on December 17.

The pentavalent vaccine has been supplied to both the States and all preparatory activities including training and logistics are completed, a statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said here on Tuesday.

Pentavalent vaccine will protect children from Diphtheria, Pertussis, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae Hib disease, which is a new addition to the routine immunisation programme in the country. It is administered to children at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age and will replace the existing DPT and Hepatitis B vaccine primary dose of which is given at the same age. At present, there are 170 countries using the pentavalent vaccine of the 193 World Health Organisation member states.

Goa has been administering pentavalent vaccine from the State budget since 2008 which was initially introduced in selected blocks but the entire State was covered in 2011. As on November 2011, more than 28,000 doses of pentavalent vaccine have been administered in Goa and there is no AEFI reported.

Introduction of Hib vaccination as a combination vaccine carries the added advantage of reducing the number of injections given to a child from 9 (3 each for DPT, Hepatitis B and Hib) to three.

It is estimated that 40 per cent of all under-5 mortality in India is attributed to pneumonia, meningitis ad diarrhoeas. Hib disease is estimated to cause 2.6 lakh cases of pneumonia and 52,000 cases of meningitis every year. Haemophilus influenza B is difficult to culture from pneumonia and meningitis cases as facility for taking the sample for culture is usually available only in tertiary care hospitals, due to prior use of antibiotics before reaching such facility and stringent culture conditions.

Based on the recommendations of WHO and the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), Pentavalent vaccine will be introduced in these two States with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation GAVI providing free vaccine for three years after which the Centre takes over the programme.

Pointing out that there had been reports of adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) in three countries, the statement said that Sri Lanka and Bhutan had resumed vaccination after investigation of these cases while Pakistan continued vaccination. “The reports on the said deaths following pentavalent vaccine were assessed for casualty by respective countries and WHO and concluded that there is no real evidence of a link between the use of the vaccine and deaths,” it said.

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