Friday, October 18, 2013

Misinformation Threatens Pentavalent Vaccine Use

In September, a doctor filed public interest litigation in the Supreme Court calling for a ban on the pentavalent vaccine. This vaccine is a five-in-one shot that combines hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus with a new vaccine for Haemophilus influenze type b (Hib). The doctor and critics claim that the pentavalent vaccine is killing children because 21 children in India have died. However, no causative link has been found and critics continue to use fear-mongering to threaten lives.

Hib is a major cause of bacterial meningitis and pneumonia in the Philippines, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. According to Unicef, 177 countries incorporate the Hib vaccine used in pentavalent in their immunization program. Indonesia recently introduced pentavalent into its national vaccine program. Around 8.2 million doses of the pentavalent vaccine have been administered in India since 2009.

Critics have continued to spread misinformation by linking the vaccine to children’s deaths, and this threatens the lives of more children.  Unicef says that 1.66 million children in India die every year from pneumonia, diarrhea, malnutrition and complications at birth. All of these deaths are preventable.

T. John Jacob is a retired professor of clinical virology at Christian Medical College in India and states that critics are putting children at risk. “Disgruntled doctors misusing data combined with an irresponsible press can damage public opinion and lead policymakers into panicked decisions that are not based on scientific evidence. The consequences can be dangerous and long lasting,” Jacob states.

He also notes that any intervention can carry risk – but not always because of the product. For instance, automobiles aren’t always blamed for deaths in automobile accidents.

Grant LaFleche from The Standard in Canada stated in a recent blog post that the anti-vaccination movement should be held responsible through fines or some other accountability method. He referenced the measles and whooping cough outbreaks and notes, “Dangerous and sometimes lethal diseases were controlled through the use of vaccines. To continue to undo that progress means increased health-care costs, more sick people and more preventable deaths.”

Vaccines are one of the greatest scientific inventions of our time. Vaccine Watch encourages everyone to seek answers to their questions from reputable sources and to analyze all of the facts in articles that attempt to increase fear of vaccines.

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