Dismissing reports of the deaths of children after administration of pentavalent vaccine in Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Pakistan as unrelated, the Centre has decided to 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.

Protection for kids

The vaccine will protect children from Diphtheria, Pertussis, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae Hib disease which is an 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 vaccines, the 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 the vaccine from the State budget since 2008, initially introduced in selected blocks covered the entire State in 2011. As on November 2011, more than 28,000 doses of the pentavalent vaccine have been administered in Goa with no adverse events following immunisation (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 nine (three each for DPT, Hepatitis B and Hib) to three.

Under-five mortality

It is estimated that 40 per cent of all under-five mortality in India is attributed to pneumonia, meningitis and 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. Due to prior use of antibiotics and stringent culture conditions, the facility for collecting the sample for culture is available only in tertiary care hospitals.

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

Vaccination resumed

Pointing out that there had been reports of AEFI in three countries, the statement said that Sri Lanka and Bhutan had resumed vaccination after investigation of these cases while Pakistan continued with the 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 read.