Pakistan made headlines when it became the first country in the world to introduce a typhoid conjugate vaccine into its routine immunization programme. Less than a week later, the vaccine drive in Sindh has been tainted prompting many parents to prevent their children from being administered the vaccine.
Reports have emerged that several children fell unconscious at a school in Orangi Town after being administered the vaccine. These rumours have created unnecessary panic about the typhoid vaccination campaign in Karachi and could throw the entire programme into jeopardy.
The provincial health department has said that there have been no severe reactions to the vaccine and all children who received the vaccine are safe and healthy. Local authorities claimed that some children panicked after being administrated the vaccine and were briefly hospitalised. Doctors have also urged parents to get their children vaccinated before the campaign in Sindh ends on November 30.
TCV is the first vaccine that can be given to children as young as six months of age providing long-term protection against typhoid. The government had planned to start the campaign from Sindh as the province had been the centre of an extensive drug-resistant typhoid outbreak since 2016.
Children were being disproportionately affected, and thus the immunization was started from schools. The two week drive aims targeting ten million children from the ages of nine months to fifteen years. The vaccine will be introduced in Punjab next year and countrywide in 2021.
Typhoid is a serious illness spread by contaminated food and water. According to WHO, in 2017, 63 percent of typhoid cases and 70 percent of typhoid deaths were found among children less than 15 years old. There were nearly 11 million cases and 116,000 deaths worldwide in 2017 from the fatal disease.
The super-bug in Sindh has infected nearly 10,000 people, and is the first outbreak resistant to the drug Ceftriazone- the standard treatment for typhoid in many parts of the world. However, it was resistant to all but one oral antibiotic in Sindh, making it challenging and costly to treat.
The new vaccine was successfully tested and received funding from organizations such as Gavi who have pledge to support countries making the vaccine part of their routine immunization drives. It is hoped the new vaccine drive does not suffer the same fate as the polio eradication programme. Spreading unfounded and baseless allegations will harm our children and the healthcare system.