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Several suggestions to look into side effects of vaccines Health minister’s decision draws positive response

KUWAIT CITY, July 18: Several recommendations have been presented to look into the side effects of vaccination, such as the appointment of enough qualified manpower in the Epidemic Unit of the Public Health Department in the Ministry of Health, reports Al-Jaridah daily quoting the head of the unit. This came after an official from the Preventive Department said that the ministry has no proper mechanism on following up the side effects of vaccination. The official also revealed that a recommendation in this regard was presented to the Vaccination Committee in 2006 but was not implemented for unknown reasons.

However, the Epidemic Unit head presented a document on the suggested procedures which must be taken to address the issue. Besides the abovementioned suggestion, the document also stressed the need to enact laws and regulations, provide necessary training and budget, and activate role of the National Committee for Public Immunization Planning. After an extensive discussion in the second meeting of the national committee on June 23, an agreement was reached to conduct more studies on the experiences of other GCC countries, especially Oman and Bahrain.

Mechanism

Nevertheless, sources said the Health Ministry has yet to put in place a mechanism to follow-up side effects of vaccines, let alone the process of gathering and recording information about the side effects. This happened despite various recommendations made by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts in vaccines and immunization affiliated with World Health Organization (WHO) for vaccines and immunization, in which it stresses the importance of monitoring side effects of vaccines, especially when it comes to the evaluation of a vaccine.

This mechanism has to be in place because vaccines are like medicines which have side effects. In the past, side effects have led to withdrawal of medicines and vaccines from the market and also halting its administration on children and suspending the registration of such vaccines and medicines in some countries. This was the basis of decision number 30/2014 issued on March 6, 2014 by Minister of Health Dr Ali Al-Obeidi who ordered suspension of ministerial directive number 306/2013, which sanctioned six vaccines for infants without any comprehensive studies that guarantee safety.

The minister’s decision has drawn positive response among the medical circles due to its importance in protecting the infants from side effects of any new vaccine before listing it among other vaccines proven safe through a series of studies. In the same context, the head of the epidemic unit has requested the committee for a period of two weeks to discuss the issue next Tuesday, in a bid to go round the decision made by the minister on halting the listing of six vaccinations (hexagon vaccines) until further notice.

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