Tetanus vaccine set for joint tests

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops health commission chairman Paul Kariuki Njiru (right) and his deputy, Bishop Joseph Mbatia, address journalists on the tetanus vaccine at Waumini House in Nairobi on October 16, 2014. PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI |

What you need to know:

  • Health CS says samples of the tetanus vaccine will be tested within a week at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Nairobi.
  • The church claims the vaccine is laced with a human hormone.

The Health ministry and the Catholic Church have agreed to conduct joint tests on a vaccine at the centre of claims it is being used to secretly sterilise women.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia on Wednesday said samples of the tetanus vaccine will be tested within a week at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Nairobi.

“Kenya is among 24 other countries with cases of children dying from neonatal tetanus, which are being involved in the current vaccination drive…

“But apparently, it is the only country where the vaccine’s safety is being doubted,” Mr Macharia told journalists on the sidelines of the 4th National Palliative Care Conference at the Laico Regency hotel in Nairobi.

LACED WITH HORMONE

The Catholic Church insists the vaccine, currently being used in the ongoing vaccination and targets girls and women of reproductive age — between 14 and 49 years, can cause sterility.

The church claims the vaccine is laced with a human hormone, which makes it impossible for women who have been vaccinated with it to have children.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops tabled test results before the National Assembly’s Committee on Health showing that samples of the government-administered vaccine contained the hormone called Beta Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin or hCG.

WHO and Unicef have termed the Catholic Church’s claims that the tetanus vaccine can cause miscarriages and sterility as “misinformation”.

The allegations lack evidence, they said.

In a statement, the UN agencies said the claims risk affecting the national immunisation programmes for children and women negatively.

However, they said they would support the joint tests on the vaccine to ascertain its safety and allay fears.

The UN agencies acknowledged that a doctor representing the church conducted tests on the tetanus vaccine to test for hCG levels.

However, the laboratories reported that “values of hCG are below acceptable detection limits, thus they should be treated as invalid results”.

Most labs detect hCG levels within the range of five milli-international units per millilitre (mIU/L) but most of the church’s findings were below five mIU/mL.

However, Kenya Catholic Doctors Association member Wahome Ngare said: “The hormone, Beta HCG is not a by-product of or a component required for the manufacture of the tetanus vaccine. Why then are there traces of hCG in samples of the vaccine?”

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