Health ministry nod for Hib vaccine sought

Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Goa have sought Centre’s permission to start Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccination. But no decision has been taken so far as the Centre was reviewing these states’ capability to handle adverse effects, in case there are any.

“A meeting has been called with the states to review the infrastructure to deal with adverse effects following immunisation,” said Union Health Secretary P K Pradhan.
Hib vaccination would be rolled out first in Tamil Nadu and Kerala after the first stock of pentavalent vaccines arrives by November-end. The pentavalent vaccine will combine DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus), Hepatitis B and Hib.

The two southern states were picked up because of their good track record in the universal immunisation programme.

The procurement has been made through an international organisation called GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation), which offered to procure the vaccine for 10 states for the next three years at a cost of Rs 765 crore. After three years, the Central government will take over from GAVI.

Going by the advice of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, the Centre approved rolling out Hib first in two states, which would be followed up later in other states.

Even though the vaccine is available for private doctors in India, a section of medical researchers is blocking its introduction in the universal immunisation programme arguing that the hib vaccine does not offer much protection to children. Armed by a number of scientific studies, NTAGI, however, felt otherwise and recommended Hib’ introduction in the UIP in 2009.

A NTAGI sub-committee that reviewed all aspects of Hib, noted that the disease burden due to meningitis and pneumonia was sufficiently high in India and the vaccines had been demonstrated to be safe and extremely efficacious in all settings. It also fits into UIP schedule.

Recognising that it is the poorest children that are most at risk, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, too, recommended using the Hib vaccine in India.

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