Pneumonia vaccine useless, increases asthma risk: WHO

By Richa Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : Raising questions over India’s decision to include a new pneumonia vaccine in the national immunisation programme, a report in a WHO bulletin has said the vaccine has “no effect” on the disease and on the contrary increases the risk of asthma among vaccinated children.

Support TwoCircles

The report, published in the September edition of the WHO Bulletin, claimed that Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV), the latest addition to India’s immunisation programme, is ineffective in tackling pneumonia among children and hence does not justify the huge amount of money the government will spend on it.

Citing medical studies conducted by renowned health care groups like Cochrane, the article by Jacob Puliyel and Soma Chowdhary, doctors in the Department of Paediatrics in Delhi’s St Stephens hospital says: “PCV does not reduce the incidence of clinical pneumonia and poor nations will need to assess its cost utility carefully”.

“The research has found that only 3.6 children per 1,000 vaccinated acquire immunity against the pneumonia, whereas the risk of asthma is doubled by the vaccination,” Puliyel told IANS.

The apprehensions raised in the report assume significance in the context of the recent decision by a high-level expert committee of the health ministry recommending the use of the PCV in the national immunisation programme.

“We have decided to protect children against pneumoccocal diseases. The PCV will be introduced in the country’s national immunisation programme in a year’s time,” Health Secretary Naresh Dayal had said.

Considering the high costs of the PCV, the ministry has planned to introduce it in a state with good immunisation coverage and high disease burden so that the impact of the vaccine can be monitored, and then replicate the vaccination programme across the country.

“The per dose cost of PCV comes out to be Rs.4,000 per child compared to about Rs.50 (including Oral Polio Vaccination and Diptheria Polio Typhoid) that is being spent on Pneumonia vaccination currently by the government,” Puliyel said.

“Even after increasing the costs, if we give our children ineffective vaccination which in turn hikes the asthma risk, it is clearly not worth it. The cost evaluation of the vaccine has to be done carefully,” Puliyel added.

Meanwhile, Wyeth, a multinational drug company that will be supplying the vaccine to the health ministry, said: “The article contains inaccurate and misleading statements. The WHO recommends the priority inclusion of vaccine in national childhood immunisation programmes worldwide.”

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])