The pentavalent vaccine for children, introduced on January 1 this year under the National Immunisation Programme, has been suspended after it was found that children who had received the vaccination had developed side effects.
According to Dr. Paba Palihawadane, deputy head of the Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health, a “hyper-response” was observed in a number of children who were given the vaccination. “The response was quite different to the side effects seen in children given other vaccines. It’s quite an abnormal situation,”
Before the new vaccine was introduced, children would be given a triple vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw) and pertussis (whooping cough), a vaccine for Hepatitis B, and the oral polio vaccine.
The pentavalent vaccine includes the triple vaccine, the Hepatitis B vaccine and the newly introduced Hib vaccine.“This was the first time Sri Lanka introduced the Hib vaccine, which protects children from Hib meningitis (Haemophilus influenza). After extensive research, we have found that a number of Sri Lankan children carry the Hib bacteria,” she said.
Hib meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, according to Dr. Palihawadane, and shows the same symptoms as other kinds of bacterial meningitis. The vaccine has been found to be effective in many western countries.
“We have temporarily suspended the pentavalent vaccine, but the triple vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine and the oral polio vaccine will be continued and given separately, she said.
A team of Sri Lankan experts will try to ascertain why children who had received the pentavalent vaccine had abnormal reactions.