The Supreme Court on Monday directed Centre to respond to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking ban of Pentavalent vaccine that is being pushed as a replacement for the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) vaccine given to infants.
The PIL alleged the 5-in-1 vaccine has serious side-effects on children and has resulted in death of 21 minors in the country so far. Pentavalent, which also adds Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B (HiB), costs Rs. 525 per unit, while DPT is Rs. 5 per unit.
Taking note of the PIL filed by senior doctor Yogesh Jain, a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam gave four weeks to the Centre to file its response. It even issued notice to Pentavalent vaccine’s manufacturer, Serum Institute (Pune).
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, pleaded that the use of vaccine should be stopped in the country, as it has already been banned in various countries including the US, Japan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and others.
After much debate, the vaccine was first introduced in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Soon after initiation in the state infant deaths were reported. “Till date at least 21 deaths have been reported in India,” Gonsalves claimed.
It has further been alleged that several deaths have gone unreported. According to the petitioner the deaths due to HiB and Hepatitis B infection in India are so low that the deaths from the vaccine would outnumber it.
Jain has also stated that the vaccine has either been banned or not used in Europe, Japan, the UK, Canada, and the United States. Pakistan, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka immediately halted use of this vaccine after reports of serious adverse events and deaths.
On May 4, this year, the ministry of health of Vietnam suspended Quinvaxem- the Pentavalent combination used in that country -- after 12 deaths and nine
other non-fatal serious adverse events, Gonsalves told the court.
India, on the other hand, has gone ahead to initiate its use. Although the data from Tamil Nadu and Kerala has not been reviewed, the vaccine has been put to use in Goa, Haryana, Pondicherry, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi, and Karnataka.