Recent study comes up with shocking revelations
Is Hepatitis-B Vaccine Useless and Proving Fatal Too?
New Delhi, October 6: Hepatitis –B vaccine has been a craze among people in India to stave off liver cancer or liver cirrhosis. But a recent pilot study published in Indian Pediatrics, journal of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, has questioned the usefulness of Hepatitis-B vaccine and made it scary too. The vaccine being part of the pentavalent has also been suspected of proving fatal to children being immunized. The pentavelent vaccine has become scary in Tamil Nadu and immunization is decelerating rapidly.
An Editorial in Indian Pediatrics has raised doubts about the usefulness of Hepatitis-B vaccination in India. The pilot study was launched in Andhra Pradesh to evaluate the usefulness of the vaccine have been published in the latest issue of Indian Pediatrics.
In an accompanying editorial Dr.Rajeev Kumar and Dr. Jacob Puliyel of the Department of Paediatrics at St. Stephens Hospital say the results are clear evidence that the vaccine has not been very useful. ‘If the findings of this study are replicated in other areas, it should prompt a re-evaluation of the need for this vaccine in the immunization program of the country’ the editorial says.
Talking to Meditoall, Dr. Jacob Puliel said, ‘the more shocking is the suspicion that Hepatitis-B vaccine might be proving fatal to children when given in combination with DPT and Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccines. This suspicion has arisen due to the incidents of death occurring after the commencement of pentavalent (combining DPT, Hepatitis-B and Hib together) vaccine in India.’
A lot many experts allege that pentavalent vaccine was introduced as universal immunization just to push useless vaccines at the behest of Pharma companies. Dr. Puliel says, ‘If they insist on including these two useless vaccines, they should at least be given separately keeping in mind the safety of the children being immunized. In USA, these vaccines are given separately, so no death is occurring.’
Twelve years ago the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) provided India with Rs.271.9 million to study Hepatitis B vaccination in India. No study of efficacy was undertaken and universal immunization was introduced in a phased manner.
The facts about Hepatitis –B are not known to masses, hence craze for this vaccine. Hepatitis B of course spreads like AIDS from mother to child or from person to person through contaminated needles or sexual contact. However unlike AIDS, the majority of those who get infected with Hepatitis B clear the organism from their bodies. A few however do not clear the virus and become chronic carriers. Some chronic carriers develop liver cancers or cirrhosis of the liver, 40 years later. Vaccination is meant to reduce the numbers who become chronic carriers and long term problems.
The pilot study in rural Andhra Pradesh looked at over 2500 children who were given the vaccine against a similar number who had not received the vaccine and used as control group. The study found that the incidence of chronic carriers was similar, regardless of vaccination status or, in other words, ‘the vaccination did not reduce hepatitis B carrier rate,’ defeating the primary aim of the immunization program, the editorial says.
Protective levels of antibodies fell rapidly among the vaccinated and by 11 years only 13% were protected. On the other hand among those not vaccinated, 33% had developed natural immunity by 6 years of age.
Kumar and Puliyel note that Hepatitis-B vaccine is now being given as pentavalent vaccine in combination with DPT and Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccines. They say that the efficacy of Hepatitis-B vaccine when given mixed with other vaccines ‘is likely to be even lower than what was reported in the study that was conducted with Hepatitis-B as a stand-alone vaccine.’
The editorial also notes that with introduction of pentavalent vaccine, immunization uptake has fallen dramatically – perhaps related to sporadic reports of deaths with the vaccine. According to the 4th District Level Household Survey (DLHS-4: 2012-13), the numbers of the fully immunized in states with good coverage in the past, like Tamil Nadu, fell by as much as 25% in 4 years to a mere 56%. ‘This would further reduce the benefits in field-condition from the Hepatitis B vaccination program,’ Kumar and Puliyel point out.
According to the editorial, the findings of the pilot study support the contention that Hepatitis B is widespread but it is a benign disease in India possibly because of characteristics of the circulating virus strain and the genetic makeup of the population. The editorial concludes that need for this vaccine in the immunization program should be reconsidered if the findings are replicated in other areas in India.