The pentavalent vaccine, which came under scanner earlier this year after 21 infants died in India, was given a clean chit by a central team on Monday after it ruled out the drug being the cause of eight mysterious deaths in Srinagar hospitals.
"There is no link between pentavalent
vaccine and the death of the children," said Dr NK Arora, chairman of the five-member team of union ministry for health and family welfare.
Arora, additional professor in department of paediatrics, AIIMS, New Delhi, arrived here with four other experts on Saturday after the news reports stated that pentavalent vaccine was the cause of death of at least eight infants in Srinagar's GB Pant hospital and SKIMS hospital.
"The infants who died in GB Pant hospital were suffering from pneumonia, meningitis, septicemia and liver disorder. These are the most common cause of the death and diagnosis was septicemia. There were unusual causes like liver disorder," Arora clarified in Srinagar.
The team presented a report to state health minister Shabir Ahmad Khan.
The central team claimed to have thoroughly discussed all the suspected cases. "We went through all the records meticulously and discussed the patients in clinical sense, went through their laboratory records to reach at the bottom of the problem," he said.
The central team also visited the parents whose infants had died. It also visited five Valley districts to assess the full health system and the overall process of immunisation.
"We went to six households in the process. We wanted to carry out epidemiological investigation. We also had informal discussion with the community living in the areas from where these unfortunate infants hailed," said Arora.
The team has investigated 12 cases, which were reported to the Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI). Of the 12, eight were reported to be death cases while four were admitted with some symptoms and were later discharged in good health from the hospital. "Out of eight deaths, seven occurred in GB Pant hospital," he said.
The central team has identified septicemia, a type of blood infection, as the main cause for the deaths. "We reached the conclusion after our assessment based on our casualty assessment under New WHO algorithm, which takes into account the clinical features of children and health system issues," he said.
The government introduced the vaccine --- which gives protection against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza B --- in October 2012 in the state.
The vaccine came under the scanner in August this year in the wake of death of 21 infants across the country. Later, the national-level AEFI committee held a major study on safety of the vaccine, which was introduced in India in 2011.
"It is equally important to emphasise that there was no programme error and it is running very well. We did not find any case where any programme error has taken place," said Arora, who is also chairman of the AEFI.
Around 2.5 lakh doses of the vaccine have been administered to children in Kashmir.
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