Combination vaccines can be timely, safe: Experts

February 12th, 2009 - 11:14 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) This should bring relief to parents who worry about their kids being injected with over a dozen vaccines for immunisation until the age of six. Experts opine that perhaps the ideal way forward is combination vaccines - all rolled into one.

Delivery modes of administering vaccines, the experts say, can play a vital role in streamlining the immunisation programme of the country and simplify the current immunisation schedule with better patient compliance.

“The usage of combination vaccines in a developing country like ours can have a significant impact on immunisation programmes and welfare initiatives such as the UN Millennium Development Goals whose target is to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015,” Panna Choudhary, president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, told IANS.

As many as 37 shots are recommended for infants and children from birth to six years of age as per Western norms and standards. However in India, the practice is to provide 16-17 injections in the same timeframe.

“New strategies in vaccine development and immunisation are critical in safeguarding public health in any country, more so in developing nations like ours where the burden of vaccine preventable diseases and mortality due to them is high given the large population,” said Bir Singh, a community medicine professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Only 43.5 percent of the country’s children are fully immunised as per the National Family Health Survey-3.

According to a report by the Council for Social Development, India accounts for 26 percent of vaccine preventable deaths among children aged under five in the world.

Combination vaccines reduce the number of shots and are safe and effective in the prevention of major killer diseases in this vulnerable age group, experts feel.

Highlighting the relevance of combination vaccines, Bir Singh added: “Immunisation through combination vaccines can shorten the immunisation schedule and ensure children remain up-to-date in immunizing themselves against several dreaded diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, polio and influenza simultaneously.”

Commenting on the safety of combination vaccines, P.N. Dubey, a paediatrician at the Apollo Hospital here, said: “With lesser number of injections there is also a reduced chance of getting needle infection and pain which in turn results in more patient participation. It also means increased safety, lesser costs, better record keeping and potentially fewer clinic visits.”

A typical combination vaccine is usually given in three doses. The three doses are given at six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of age respectively. After three doses, children can receive a booster dose between 15 to 18 months.

Thousands of children in India fall victim to vaccine preventable diseases annually, either because they are not being vaccinated or because of inaccessibility.

According to the Indian Academy of Paediatrics Committee on Immmunisation, no efficacy or safety is compromised when a new combination vaccine is administered in standardised forms. However, the body maintains that they must not be viewed as being more effective than vaccines given separately.

The 2007-2008 report of the union ministry of health and family welfare cites Unicef immunisation coverage at national level for BCG vaccine against tuberculosis at 83.4 percent, DPT (diphtheria, pneumonia and tetanus) vaccine’s third dose at 67.3 percent, measles vaccine at 78.1 percent and polio vaccine at 61.3 percent.

(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at

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