The Maharashtra state health department’s swine-flu vaccination programme for pregnant women has received dismal response, with just 40 pregnant women voluntarily taking the vaccine in Mumbai.
For the first time ever, the health department is providing ‘free swine-flu vaccination’ to pregnant women, as they are the most vulnerable to the H1N1 infection that has affected 2,130 people in Mumbai and killed 31.
In Nagpur, which saw a similar swine-flu outbreak this year, 246 pregnant women received the vaccination, state health officials said.
“Three maternity homes in Mumbai will start providing the vaccination this week, including the centre at the Kasturba Hospital that currently offers the vaccine. It is recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated against swine flu, but the exercise is voluntary,” said Dr Mini Khetarpal, chief of the civic epidemiology cell.
A state health department committee, formed to tackle epidemics such as swine flu, recommends vaccination for all parts of the population that are vulnerable to the infection. Highly-places sources said owing to delay in procurement of the vaccines, the health department is using “old stock” that was procured for Haj pilgrims.
Using left over stock is dangerous, experts said, as flu vaccines are manufactured annually depending on the strain of the virus that is in circulation in a particular geographical area. “Using left over stock will reduce the efficacy of the vaccine, which makes the entire exercise futile,” said a source from the department.
At present, five centres in the state provide the H1N1 vaccination and 288 pregnant women have received the vaccine, state health officials said.
“Most people fear side-effects associated with the vaccine. Also, during pregnancy, the family and the pregnant woman is concerned about the possibility of harm to the baby,” said Dr Om Shrivastav, infectious disease consultant.
“We are holding an intensive campaign to create awareness among pregnant women about the vaccine. Women in their second trimester can take the vaccine for free,”said Sujata Saunik, the principal health secretary, state health department.