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India, Pakistan commence comprehensive bilateral dialogue

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Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Wednesday commenced a comprehensive bilateral dialogue between the two south Asian neighbours in Islamabad.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup, said that the foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet later.

The decision in this regard was taken on a day when Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed in the Pakistani capital that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Pakistan next year, the first such visit by the head of the Indian government in over a decade.

Modi will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit, Sushma Swaraj told the media.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to Pakistan since Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the South Asian neighbour in January 2004 to attend that year’s Saarc summit.

Sushma Swaraj said she would accompany Modi during his visit, Geo TV reported.

The Indian minister is in Islamabad to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference on peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Sushma Swaraj’s is the first ministerial visit from India to Pakistan since the then external affairs minister S M Krishna went to Islamabad for official visit in 2012.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held in Ufa, Russia, in July, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited Modi to attend the Saarc summit in Islamabad next year, which Modi had accepted.

After the Ufa meeting, both prime ministers directed their foreign secretaries to initiate the process of renewing talks, including meetings between the national security advisors of the two countries.

However, NSA-level talks between India’s Ajit Doval and his then Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz scheduled in New Delhi in August were cancelled after the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi insisted on inviting Hurriyat leaders for pre-talks consultations before Aziz arrived.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan comes after a flurry of diplomatic engagements between the two South Asian neighbours in the past 10 days.

Modi and Sharif had an impromptu meeting on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties (CoP-21) Climate Summit in Paris on November 30.

Both leaders were seen warmly shaking hands at the summit venue as world leaders converged for the opening of the event.

The two leaders then sat on the same sofa and were seen engaging in an animated discussion.

Following this, on December 6, Doval and Pakistani NSA Naseer Khan Janjua held a meeting in Bangkok which was also attended by Foreign Secretaries S.Jaishanker and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two NSAs held discussions “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”.

According to the statement, the NSAs “were guided by the vision of the two leaders for a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia”.

“Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues including tranquillity along the LoC (Line of Control).”

“It was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement,” said the statement.

The LoC divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

On Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj also met Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif and his Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of the Islamabad conference.

According to external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup, during the meeting with Sharif, Sushma Swaraj conveyed “India’s commitment to good neighbourly relations”.

After the meeting with Aziz, Swarup tweeted: “Building a cooperative relationship. EAM @SushmaSwaraj meets Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Mr Sartaj Aziz.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj extended India’s hand of friendship to Pakistan at the Heart of Asia Conference.

“It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation,” she said in her address at the conference.

“For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with,” she added.

Later, the Indian minister attended a lunch hosted by Sharif for delegates to the Heart of Asia Conference.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

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According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS