A group of academics, professors, public health teachers and pediatricians concerned about deaths following the administration of the Pentavalent vaccine is requesting that health officials have it withdrawn from the vaccination schedule in India.
The vaccine, which is a combination of DPT, Hib and Hep B, was recently introduced in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in southern India, following a recommendation by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, according to the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice, a private investigative agency specializing in “victims and witnesses of medical and scientific corruption.”
In a letter to national health officials, the group said there had been concern over the safety of the vaccine, so it was only introduced in two states, in order to monitor its safety.
No ‘alternative cause’ found
“Thereafter, according to the minutes of the NTAGI meeting, the data was to be reviewed after one year of the introduction, before extending its use to other states. We are concerned that well before the data from Kerala and Tamil Nadu could be analyzed, it was introduced in Haryana at the end of last year,” said the letter, which was sent to the Indian health secretary on Jan. 15.
The group said that three more infants had died in Kerala recently, while another died in Haryana, all after being given the vaccine. At first glance, there seems to be no “alternative cause” for the deaths other than the vaccine, it said.
In November, there were three deaths in Vietnam, which led health officials there to terminate use of the vaccine immediately. There have been similar related deaths in Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Pakistan after administration of the vaccine.
When each death is seen separately, they may seem coincidental, the letter said. But when viewed collectively, the deaths should be seen as related and part of a pattern.
Health officials in Pakistan labeled the casualties as “sudden death,” as in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, but the group, in its letter, said that clearly wasn’t the case.
In Bhutan, there were eight deaths linked to the vaccine, but health officials there said they were caused by encephalitis, despite there being no evidence of infection. The group noted that a year after the vaccinations had ceased so, too, had “encephalitis” deaths.
Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, the group of experts examined deaths following administration of the vaccine, reporting that they could not find an alternative cause for the deaths except the vaccine.
Monitoring of vaccine ‘did not happen’
“It is for us as experts and the Union government to look at all these seemingly isolated instances of deaths in a comprehensive manner to see the underlying pattern and act if needed,” says the letter. “Considering that the vaccine is given to a large number of children who are well, it is crucial that they be completely safe.”
“As doctors, we are aware that most medicines have some side effects, but repeated instances of deaths as side effect from a vaccination program for a disease that itself can be treated with antibiotics cannot be acceptable,” said the group.
A separate report regarding the vaccine said requirements to track the effectiveness of the vaccine were not carried out.
“The PV vaccine was supposed to be a pilot project in Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the recommendation of (NTAGI) in Dec 2011,” Health India reported. “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 program to other states. This didn’t happen.”