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Tetanus vaccine safe, say experts as three samples due for further test

Health & Science
Tetanus vaccine safe, say experts as three samples due for further test Chairman of Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Stephen Karanja (right) briefs the press on the progress of investigations on a controversial tetanus vaccine. Looking on is Dr Fred Were, dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Nairobi. [Photo: Beverlyne Musili/Standard]

Kenyans will still have to wait longer for a conclusive report on the controversial tetanus vaccine being investigated by a joint team of experts.

The experts drawn from the Ministry of Health and the Catholic Church said while preliminary results from a local laboratory showed that some vials contained beta HCG, the majority of those tested were negative.

The joint tests arose after the Catholic Church claimed the vaccine administered to women was laced with the birth control substance.

"The total number of vials was 59. Three of the tested vials were found to contain beta human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG). These three vials were collected from the field during the campaign and submitted as open vials having being previously tested in other laboratories," said the Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Nairobi Fred Were, who is a co-chair of the committee.

He added: "All the other 56 vials tested were found to be negative for beta HCG, including those with batch numbers corresponding to the three vials that tested positive."

Nine vials from the Kenya Catholic Bishops Conference (KCCB) were obtained during the March and October 2014 campaign period. There were tested and found to contain beta HCG.

The vials, being open, raised the question of contamination in the chain of collection and storage.

The other 50 samples were obtained from the field and central store with batch numbers corresponding to the ones with KCCB.

The vaccines were submitted to two laboratories – one local and other in Germany. Final results from the local laboratory are expected next week.

The final results will be released to the public as soon as both laboratories submit final results to committee.

The church had earlier raised concern that the tetanus toxoid vaccine contained a substance that causes infertility and miscarriages, leading to the formation of the committee to look into the matter.

This led to a call for a fresh round of independent medical tests to end the controversy on the safety of the vaccines.

Kenya Catholic Doctors Association (KCDA) Chairman Stephen Karanja, speaking during a press briefing at UoN's School of Medicine yesterday, said after looking at the results, they recommend that there be routine monitoring and testing of all vaccines brought to the country.

Karanja added that there should be external vigilance and surveillance by healthcare providers.

The committee emphasised the need for quality assurance mechanisms during mass immunisation campaigns.

The experts maintained that the routine tetanus immunisation administered to pregnant mothers and children in the country was safe.

Kenya's Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri said the results were a positive indication that the public has nothing to fear.

Dr Muraguri said they would still look into the three vials that were found to have the substance for further clarification.

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