The drive to vaccinate children against typhoid is in full swing in Sindh but it has already been marred by false rumours about adverse reactions to the vaccine.
Soon after the campaign started on Monday there were reports of school children from Karachi’s Orangi Town being hospitalised after reacting to the vaccine.
The children were all students of White House Grammar School from Block L, Orangi Town.
The project director of Sindh’s expanded programme of immunisation, Dr Akram Sultan, who is also spearheading the typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) campaign, told SAMAA Digital that all of the affected children are stable and have been discharged.
He added that the children had panicked after seeing other children getting injected. Some had become dizzy and fainted.
“Around 24 kids were referred from one school to the hospital. This school is already a polio refusal school. Its staff and principal beat up doctors. There has been no negative reaction in all of Sindh. Why only in this school?” Dr Sultan said indignantly.
He said the vaccine was safe and necessary, and side effects, if any, were limited to pain and swelling at the injection site and fever.
The doctor who had received the children at Al Khidmat Hospital in Orangi said they were brought in with various symptoms.
“Seven children were given first aid treatment and discharged immediately. But some of them were more serious. They were referred to NICH, AKU, Abbasi Shaheed and Qatar Hospital since we don’t have an ICU here,” Dr Rooh Ul Amin told SAMAA Digital.
He claimed some of the children had chest congestion, body pain, rashes, pain at the injection site and vomiting. Dr Amin confirmed that those shifted to Qatar Hospital had been discharged Monday night and were stable.
A distressing environment had been created at the hospital on Monday, Dr Amin said. The district health officer, officials of the Sindh Healthcare Commission and Sindh Assembly members had all been summoned by him.
The Sindh health department has reiterated that the TCV vaccine is safe and adverse events are being monitored by the vaccination teams.
“I just had a meeting with the Karachi Commissioner. Everyone from WHO Islamabad, international experts, private schools representatives to the health department were present,” said Dr Sultan.
Specialists were monitoring the situation at all levels: union council, district and provincial. Paediatricians from the private and public sector in Sindh were also on board, Dr Sultan added, and they had the medical records of patients from all hospitals.
He said the vaccine was safe enough to be given to pregnant women and his own children had received it as well.
The day the campaign was inaugurated, some health experts, including Dr Khalid Shafi, associate professor at Dow Medical University and general secretary of the Pakistan Paediatrics Association Sindh, had vaccinated their children against it.
In a video message released on Tuesday, Dr Shafi urged parents to not believe false rumours and get their children vaccinated.
“I would like to reassure parents that this vaccine is completely safe. It has no serious side effects. When some children see the vaccine they panic which has been misconstrued and wrongly presented.”
The typhoid conjugate vaccine is WHO certified and recommended for children over six months of age in places where there is a disease outbreak.
“This vaccine is pre-qualified by WHO which means that its production is rigorously monitored by WHO,” Dr Palitha Mahipala, country representative of the World Health Organisation, said in an audio message to the public.
“TCV is recommended for use because it’s safe and effective in granting protection. Moreover, TCV was used in different countries in the world including Pakistan and proved its safety.”