Apex court seeks Centre's response to vaccine ban

 The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to explain the use of the pentavalent vaccine, promoted to prevent Hepatitis-B and also as replacement for the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) vaccine, due to its alleged side effect.

A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai issued notice to the government, seeking its response within four weeks, following a public interest litigation (PIL). The bench decided to examine the PIL after senior advocate Colin Gonsalves submitted that petitioner Yogesh Jain was himself a doctor and had approached the court in public interest.

According to the PIL, the vaccine had serious side effects on children — 21 children had died so far due to its use without standard tests of its safety.

“The vaccine was launched for a limited year-long trial in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Soon after initiation in the state units, infant deaths were reported. Till date, at least 21 deaths have been reported in India. Experts estimate that many more deaths have gone unreported. In reality, the disease burdens of Hib (haemophilus influenzae type-b) and Hepatitis-B in India are so low that deaths from the vaccine outnumber lives saved from diseases,” contended the petition.

Although the data from Tamil Nadu and Kerala were yet to be reviewed, the vaccine had been introduced in Goa, Haryana, Puducherry, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Karnataka too, it said.

The petition claimed that the vaccine had either been banned or was not being used in Europe, Japan, the UK, Canada, and the United States.

Pakistan, Vietnam, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka immediately halted use of this vaccine after reports of serious adverse events and deaths. India, on the other hand, has forged ahead with it, said the petition.

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