India must debate ill-effects of compulsory vaccination

"India must debate the ill-effects of compulsory vaccination"
-      - Jacob Puliyel, Head of Paediatrics Department, St Stephen’s Hospital, New Delhi

The fact that compulsory vaccination will serve any special purpose is pure bunkum. Let’s cite an example here. It is well established that if sterilisation is made compulsory, it would control population surge. However, in the case of vaccines we are not sure that they are efficacious, even if 100 per cent of the population is covered.

The Pentavalent vaccine, which replaced DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), and now comes with a combination of H influenza B and Hepatitis B, has been officially proven to have caused deaths not just in Sri Lanka, but even in India.

The vaccine was suspended in our neighbouring country as a result of the fatalities. The Indian government replied to an RTI application that it caused 13 deaths in Kerala, three in Haryana and four in Tamil Nadu in 2015. However, whenever a death occurs in India, the exact reason is never brought in the public domain.

The new classification of the World Health Organization tries to do the same and we have written papers saying so in many peer-reviewed journals.

Generally, vaccine hesitancy in India is pushed aside as ignorance of a community, but no sustained efforts have been made to counter the perception. The very fact that measles-rubella (MR) vaccine faced opposition in Tamil Nadu and Kerala is a pointer to the fact that it is not only ignorance. In many cases, there is an informed debate. So, it is better to tell people the pros and cons clearly. Nobody likes to deprive children, and an informed decision will help in this case.

When the MR vaccine was pushed in Delhi and people went to the high court, the court instructed the government that an informed consent should be sought from parents. There is no data about congenital rubella in Delhi as per the government’s own admission. There are many cases where vaccines are being pushed on a large-scale for a virtually non-existent problem. This was the case for the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Word about poor vaccination being responsible for measles outbreak in the US is not beyond doubt. In the US, many states, as a knee-jerk reaction, are making it compulsory now. There will be unforeseen effects of this in countries like India. It will try to do the same on the lines of the US. This may be a big conspiracy theory to make a blind push for vaccine by manufacturers.

The proponents of compulsory vaccination say that in India, where morbidity and mortality rates are high, vaccines should be pushed. I strongly suggest that in a resource-deficit country like ours, it is ridiculous to allocate a large portion of a small health budget to an initiative, the efficacy of which is doubtful. It is both bad science and administration.

Therefore, more than any other country, India must make a push to engage in a debate on the ill-effects of compulsory vaccination.

(This debate was first published in Down To Earth's print edition dated 1-15 July, 2019)