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H1N1 vaccine for pregnant women: BMC for it,state govt plays safe

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the state government differ on whether to administer H1N1 vaccine to pregnant women or not.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | Mumbai |
July 4, 2010 2:04:49 am

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the state government differ on whether to administer H1N1 vaccine to pregnant women or not. While BMC is pushing for it,sources in the State Government confirmed that they were unlikely to give in to the demand in the “near future”.

At a training for doctors from civic hospitals last week,KEM Hospital dean Dr Sanjay Oak had suggested that the vaccine could help control the disease in high risk categories,especially pregnant women. Of the total swine flu casualties in the state last year,10 per cent were from this vulnerable group. Also,two out of the nine dead this year are pregnant women.

“The Kerala Government has already started vaccinating pregnant women successfully. Since Maharashtra was one of the worst affected states last year,it makes sense to be cautious this year,especially since the vaccine is now available. Hence,we had suggested to the State Government that Maharashtra should follow Kerala’s initiative,” Dr Daksha Shah,head of BMC’s Epidemiology cell,said.

Though the BMC is yet to receive any formal reply from the government,State Health Services director Dr DS Dakhure said no such decision was likely to be taken any time soon. “The vaccine doses are meant strictly for the use of medical and paramedical personnel. Until the Union Health Ministry declares the vaccine safe enough for pregnant women,we will not take any such decision,” he said.

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The ‘message’ is likely to be communicated to the civic body soon,to which Dr Shah said the BMC would have to “consider its next step”.

Even independent expert bodies seem to be divided on the issue. Sources from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that no hasty decision was advisable at the moment. “There are very few cases emerging this year,countrywide. Though the figure is considerable in Maharashtra,still there is no such emergency to start vaccinating pregnant women immediately,” said a doctor from the NICD’s swine flu committee. The doctor added,”The vaccine is fairly new. Though there haven’t been reports of major side effects,we have been hearing of isolated incidents. In such a situation,exposing a vulnerable category unless absolutely necessary,does not make sense.”

Meanwhile,the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a formal worldwide notice advising the vaccine for pregnant women. “Pregnant women are more likely to have serious illness and death from H1N1 flu. When a pregnant woman gets a flu shot,it can protect both her and her baby,” the CDC says.

The vaccine has run into controversy ever since the BMC took 2,000 doses from the State for voluntary use by medical professionals,but returned 800 doses due to poor response,for the fear of side-effects like Guillain-Barre. On Friday,15 people tested positive for H1N1,taking the total number of positive cases to 133 since January this year.

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