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In the wake of chemical attack in Syria, India reiterates its position against chemical weapons use anywhere in the world

A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria, April 4, 2017. VOA

New Delhi, April 13, 2017: Following last week’s chemical attack in Syria that claimed over 80 lives, India on Thursday reiterated its position against the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world.

“You know that India is a signatory of the chemical weapons convention,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in weekly media briefing here.

“It has been our consistent position that the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere under any circumstances should not happen,” he said. “And any perpetrator of such an act should be held accountable.”

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On April 4, a reported toxic gas attack hit the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib, killing over 80 people and wounding scores of others.

Two days later, the United States launched 59 cruise missiles against the Shairat military base in central Syria, where from, according to the US, airplanes carrying chemical weapons took off.

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On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have required Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to cooperate with international inquiries into the attack.

On India’s position vis-a-vis the rest of the world on the issue, Baglay referred to a statement by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after he met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday which said: “We both believe in a unified and stable Syria and we agree we want to deny a safe haven to terrorists.”

He said that India believed that it was important to defeat terrorism “which in that particular theatre is represented, among others by the IS (Islamic State) and cooperation of all countries is vital to achieving this objective”. (IANS)

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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