Pentavalent vaccine is a combo of vaccines against diseases like Diphtheria, Pertrussis (whooping cough), Tetanus, Hepatitis B and HiB (pneumonia and meningitis) viruses. Giving vaccines for different diseases confers what is called ‘acquired immunity’ to diseases. Some of the diseases like polio, TB, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Measles, Hepatitis B which can be deadly in children can be prevented with vaccines.
In public health practice, vaccination is given to confer community protection so that even unimmunized children will have a reduced risk of getting the disease. This is called as the ‘herd effect’ of immunization.
So, why is the medical community claiming that the Pentavalent vaccine is unsafe?
The PV vaccine was supposed to be a pilot project in Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the recommendation of the National Technical Advisory group (NTAGI) in Dec 2011. It was introduced to tackle the rising deaths due to pneumonia and meningitis which are becoming leading causes for under-five child mortality in India. All the infants administered with the vaccine were to be monitored and reported about diligently. The data was supposed to be reviewed after one year before extending the programme to other states. This didn’t happen – it was introduced in Haryana at the end of last year before any data was analyzed.
Just in the last three weeks, three more infants in Kerala and one infant in Haryana died due to the vaccine. And the doctors haven’t reported any other cause. Following the deaths, pediatricians, academicians, public health lobbyists from all over India have requested the Union Health Secretary to withdraw the pentavalent vaccine from the National Immunization Programme.
According to a piece in DNA, certain doctors who wished to be unnamed claimed that international pharma lobbies like the GAVI alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization) have been influencing the Government’s decisions without proper investigation about its safety. This despite the fact that there have been infants deaths in other countries like Bhutan, Pakistan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, due to the vaccine.