NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 – The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have confirmed that the tetanus vaccine is safe, as they sought to dispel what they term as misinformation.
A statement signed by representatives of both organisations says that the allegations that the vaccine is contaminated with a hormone that causes miscarriages and renders some women sterile are not backed by any evidence.
“WHO and UNICEF confirm that the vaccines are safe and are procured from a pre-qualified manufacturer. This safety is assured through a three-pronged global testing system and the vaccine has reached more than 130 million women with at least two doses of TT vaccines in 52 countries,” wrote WHO’s Custodia Mandlhate and Pirkko Heinonen from UNICEF.
According to the organisations, the negative publicity risks negatively impacting immunisation programmes for children and women.
They added: “The World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund express their deep concern about the misinformation circulating in the media on the quality of the Tetanus Toxoid Vaccine in Kenya.”
The WHO and UNICEF officials were responding to accusations by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association that a tetanus vaccine campaign undertaken by Ministry of Health in March and October was contaminated with hCG. Findings on samples collected by the catholic doctor’s association expressed concern that the vaccine program was being used to conceal a population control effort.
“We have taken note of test results claiming to show levels of hCG in samples submitted to some clinical laboratories,” the WHO/UNICEF officials said.
“However it is important to note that testing for the content of a medicine, e.g., TT Vaccine, needs to be done in a suitable laboratory and from a sample of the actual medicine/vaccine obtained from an unopened pack and not a blood sample. Furthermore the Pharmacy and Poisons Board – the legally mandated National Regulatory Authority- has the capacity and mandate to determine the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines and to advise the Government accordingly.”
The officials also commented on the suspicions of the doctor’s association, the targeting of women in child-bearing years and the frequency of the vaccination regime.
“Given most tetanus cases in Kenya are among newborns, the target group of Kenya’s TT vaccination campaigns is girls and women (15-49 yrs), with a particular emphasis on those in the most marginalized areas. We note with concern that Kenya is one of the 25 countries where tetanus is still a public health problem, killing hundreds of newborns every year,” they said.
They added WHO and UNICEF reiterate readiness to support the Government of Kenya in its efforts to provide safe and quality assured vaccines for the immunization programs.
The National Assembly Health Committee had on Tuesday directed the Catholic Church and the Ministry of Health to undertake a joint testing exercise to allay fears about the tetanus vaccine.
The Catholic Church leaders who appeared before the committee claimed they had submitted a vaccine sample for testing and secured proof that it contained a hormone that interferes with fertility.
Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said on Wednesday that plans are already underway to conduct tests on the tetanus vaccine with all stakeholders including the Catholic Church.
“This is medical science but we want to make sure that we bring all stakeholders on board so as to move as a united front in the vaccination,” he said. “It’s a safe certified vaccine. I would recommend my own daughter and wife to take it because I entirely 100 percent agree with it and have confidence it has no adverse health effects.”