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Wednesday Nov 20 2019

Karachi parents asked to ignore social media rumours as 1.7m kids vaccinated against XDR typhoid

Experts say the vaccine is safe and would protect children from nine months to 15 years of age from typhoid. Photo: Medical Express

KARACHI: Experts of infectious diseases and paediatric illnesses suspect a powerful lobby could be behind the ongoing negative propaganda and smear campaign against the newly-introduced Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TC) in Sindh, saying some influential people having vested interests were spreading misconceptions against vaccination drive.

“If all the children are vaccinated against typhoid, the demand for antibiotics would reduce by 50 per cent or even more in the province and perhaps that is the reason that some people are spreading baseless rumours against this extremely safe and effective vaccine, which has already been used to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of children in Hyderabad and in the Lyari town of Karachi,” an eminent paediatrician said while speaking to The News.

The paediatrician, who requested anonymity, said that a group of powerful people were behind spreading rumours that typhoid vaccine resulted in a serious adverse reaction. He added that videos and voice messages were spread in a planned and coordinated manner, which resulted in serious doubts about the Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine and the motives of the drive.

Rejecting the propaganda against the vaccination drive in Karachi, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Pakistani child specialists and doctors said on Monday the newly-introduced vaccine was fully safe and would protect children from nine months to 15 years of age from typhoid, which, they said, had emerged as major health issue in the province.s

“TCV is a very safe vaccine and no serious adverse events are observed after its administration. This vaccine is pre-qualified by WHO which means that its production is rigorously monitored by WHO. TCV is recommended for use by WHO because it’s safe and effective in granting the protection [against XDR typhoid],” WHO representative in Pakistan Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala said in a message to The News.

However, authorities and the health experts believe that it is a “planned and coordinated” campaign against the vaccination drive, with new videos and voice messages, were spread to create more confusion among parents on the second day of the vaccination, who were already concerned about the safety of their children after seeing video clips and voice messages on social media platforms.

“Due to the planned negative propaganda, many parents on Tuesday refused to sign consent forms, while in many schools, administrations called parents to seek their consent before allowing TCV shots to be administered to the children,” the health expert said, adding that due to this adverse campaign, thousands of children could be deprived of having the precious and important vaccine.

Another senior health expert and Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA) Vice President Dr Khalid Shafi, said Pakistan was a big market for third-generation cephalosporin (antibiotics. “If most of the children were vaccinated against typhoid through the TCV, the burden on public and private hospitals would reduce drastically,” he said.

“Although extensively drug-resistant typhoid is not treatable with third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics, these antibiotics are commonly used to treat the typhoid fever and other gastric illnesses. If children are prevented against typhoid, the sale of these antibiotics could drop,” he said, adding that even the sale of two of the costly antibiotics used to treat XDR typhoid would also reduce drastically in Pakistan.

He said parents could protect their children from this dreaded disease and themselves from financial burden by getting their children vaccinated.

Health authorities in Sindh said as many as 1.7 million children were vaccinated against typhoid in the province during two days, and added that despite hurdles, the drive would continue till the achievement of the target.

They added, they had approached the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority as well as the FIA and other agencies for action against people who were spreading baseless propaganda against the national cause.

Originally published in The News