Monday, June 21, 2010

Swine flu: No takers for novel human influenza vaccine

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 21: Several lakh doses of novel human influenza vaccine are available in the Indian market, but there are no takers for fear of side effects.

The novel human influenza vaccine including the recently launched Indian variety may cause adverse reactions in people allergic to certain ingredients present in them. The side effects are more severe if the person has previous history of allergy to protein present in eggs and chicken.

If statistics are any indication, even health workers, who are supposedly to be vaccinated before the swine flu vaccine is used for the general public, are not inclined to take the dose. The vaccine did not go well in major cities including Hyderabad, Delhi and Pune.

Many health workers in Andhra Pradesh are not willing to take the vaccine, forcing the State government to seek permission from the Centre for immunisation of the general public. The Centre had sent about 80,000 doses of swine flu vaccine to the State. Only 550 persons had undergone vaccination in Hyderabad thus far. In Pune, where swine flu created havoc last year, the response was poor. Even free vaccination camps were reported to be empty.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has admitted that the signs of allergic reaction to human influenza vaccine may include itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue. In rare cases it may lead to shock. "Doctors are aware of this possibility and need to have emergency treatment available for use in such cases," according to MoHFW guidelines on the vaccine use.

One in every 10 persons vaccinated will have side effects like headache, muscular pain and pain at the injection site, while one to 10 users in 100 will complain of shivering, fever, and redness and swelling at the site of injection.

"These side effects usually disappear without treatment within 1 to 3 days after onset. But those suffering from asthma should be extra careful about the vaccine. They may have severe reaction to the vaccination," admits Dr Ch Jaya Kumari, Hyderabad district medical and health officer.

In severe cases of reaction to the vaccine, the patient may suffer from neugalgia (pain in nerve route), convulsions with fever and differences in the perception of touch, pain, heat and cold (paraesthesia). The neurological disorders may result in stiff neck, confusion, numbness, pain and weakness of the limbs, loss of balance, loss of reflexes, paralysis of part or all the body.

The MoHFW has noted with caution that "as with all injectable vaccines, appropriate medical treatment and supervision should always be readily available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following the administration of the vaccine". However, Dr K Subhakar Rao, State coordinator for swine flu, refused to comment on the adverse reactions the vaccine may cause.

With fresh bouts of swine flu cases being reported from different parts of the country including Hyderabad, the Central government has made it mandatory for all health officials to send report on the adverse events following immunisation.

The first information report is to be furnished to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare within 48 hours. Preliminary investigation report for the serious adverse event is to be reported within seven days by district AEFI (adverse events following immunisation) Committee to the State and the Central governments.