Tetanus vaccines: Life or death sentence? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 08 November 2010 10:34

A recent memorandum from the Department of Education (DepEd) in Davao City requiring 14-year-old female public school students to submit themselves to tetanus toxoid vaccination has sparked an outcry among human rights activists and pro-life advocates.

The tetanus toxoid vaccine is one of the vaccines regularly recommended by OB-Gynecologists for pregnant women who have failed to get the vaccine prior to pregnancy.

Getting the vaccine, according to doctors, is a better option for pregnant women than getting tetanus before or even during childbirth. The vaccine has also resulted to a decrease in tetanus incidence among newborns.

Pro-life groups, led by retired Judge Jesus Quitain, however questioned the order which targeted female students of child-bearing age. “Why girls only? How about the boys? Why 14-year olds?” he asked.

Quitain said the out-of-school youths and the carpenters are more exposed to tetanus.

He said this makes the DepEd memo very suspicious. The memo ordered health and nutrition section personnel and nurses, school administrators and secondary school principals to submit a list of female public school students who are 14 years of age. The list will be the basis for the tetanus toxoid vaccine to be administered by the Department of Health (DOH) nurses.

Dr. Racquel Montejo, DOH Davao health planning and medical specialist, said the health program targeted women of reproductive age to address neonatal deaths arising from tetanus infection.

She said the DOH aggressively campaigned for the tetanus toxoid vaccination based on survey results, which showed an increase in the number of pregnant women not availing of pre-natal check-ups from 43 percent in 2008 to 59 percent in 2009.

Tetanus vaccine as contraceptive

The order came at a time when the government is actively campaigning for the passage of the Reproductive Health bill.

OB-gynecologist Dr. Baby Palabyab cited a 1990 case when the tetanus vaccine (containing the hCG or human chorionic gonadotrophin hormone) was injected to 3.4 million Filipino women.

She said while no one had tracked down the results of the vaccination, some women who were injected with the vaccine suffered from miscarriage.

“If you know someone injected with the vaccines in the late 1990s, a classmate, a friend, please ask them if they were able to bear a child,” Palabyab said.

It was actually the Human Life International (HLI) which discovered the anomaly in the TT vaccines being used in the vaccination campaign in various countries including Mexico, Nicaragua and the Philippines.

Comite’ Pro Vida de Mexico, HLI’s Mexican affiliate, had the vaccine vials analyzed in the laboratories and found out that some of the vials contained hCG.

HCG is a hormone, which naturally occurs, and is necessary to maintain a pregnancy. It is actually the increased presence of hCG which is tested when a woman takes a pregnancy test.

Palabyab however confirmed that while the TT vaccine can protect people from tetanus, there is a danger that women who get the vaccine which contains the hCG, may not become pregnant within 10 years.

Research shows that the introduction of the tetanus vaccine containing hCG in the body will form antibodies not only against tetanus but also versus hCG itself. Subsequent pregnancies will then fail because the antibodies will attack the hCG which sustains the pregnancy.

"The placenta produces an antibody known as hCG which does not allow the survival of a baby," Palabyab said.

Quitain said this could be an experiment using the 14-year old female students as guinea pigs.

Experts said that a woman with sufficient anti-hCG antibodies will not be capable of maintaining a pregnancy.

The DOH denies the presence of hCG in the TT vaccines as claimed by the pro-life advocates. The same denial was also issued by the DOH and the World Health Organization in 1994 when HLI issued the warning against the hCG-laden TT vaccines.

But when confronted with the laboratory results showing 3 of the 4 TT vials positive of hCG, they claimed the hCG content was not enough to produce the antibodies.

While population control through the use of artificial family methods has been widely accepted in the Philippines, there is a legal and moral issue involved in deceiving people into taking in or being injected with something which contains contraceptive or abortifacient properties.

While the DOH and DepEd should not be accused of deliberately deceiving the students and their parents, the contention of the pro-life advocates is valid. The only solution perhaps, is to test each and every vial that will be used for the vaccination, for hCG content. But then again, will that stop the pro-life advocates from crying foul?

By LOVELY A. CARILLO

Last Updated on Monday, 08 November 2010 10:50