September 30, 2011
School of Medicine, Kochi
Over 150 countries in the world administer pentavalent (five-in-one) vaccine to children. With the same injection, children receive protection from five diseases viz. diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, meningitis and hepatitis B.
Now children in India will also have access to the same vaccine. Initiated by the Government of India, the pentavalent vaccine program is being first introduced in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and will later be rolled out in other states also.
“The two states selected for the first phase of introduction of the vaccine already have strong immunization programs and robust health care systems including disease surveillance,” stated Dr. Leelamoni, Head of the Department of Community Medicine at the Amrita School of Medicine.
Dr. Leelamoni was appointed to a four-member expert committee constituted by the Government of Kerala that will provide specific recommendations on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, before the program is launched on a large scale in the state.
Joining Dr. Leelamoni on the expert committee are Dr. P. K. Jameela, Director of Health Services, Government of Kerala; Dr. Lalitha Kailas, HoD of Pediatrics, Shri Avittom Thirunal Hospital, Trivandrum; and Dr. Noel Narayanan, Former HoD of Pediatrics, Shri Avittom Thirunal Hospital, Trivandrum.
“In Kerala, this vaccine is already being used in many private hospitals,” shared Dr. Leelamoni. “For the past four and half years, we are administering pentavalent vaccine in Amrita.”
Dr. Leelamoni explained keys aspects of the proposed vaccine program.
“Under the National Infant Immunization Schedule, diphtheria and hepatitis B are already included. Heamophilus influenzae (Hib) is leading cause of death from bacterial meningitis in children, now children will receive protection from this killer disease also.”
“It is our hope that the lessons learned and the experience gained with the introduction of pentavalent vaccine in our state can help the introduction of this program in other parts of the country also.”
A veteran in the field of community medicine, Dr. Leelamoni has initiated many community action program for mothers and children in rural areas in collaboration with UNICEF and assisted with training of field staff for proper infant nutrition in collaboration with Food & Nutrition Board of India.
She is actively involved in various outreach activities for the benefit of the public including implementation of mass drug administration programs for filariasis. She is the chief coordinator for tobacco cessation as part of Quit Tobacco International – India (QTI) project.
Her area of interest includes monitoring and evaluation of various health programs.