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Kerala constitutes seven-member committee to examine rabies deaths

- September 6, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, September 6 (BPNS)

The state has finally constituted an expert committee to enquire and submit a report on the cause of deaths due to dog bites. The seven-member expert committee chaired by Dr Thomas Mathew, director of medical education (DME) has been asked to submit the report at the earliest. The committee has also been provided with a nine-point term of reference that includes examining possible reasons for rabies deaths, the knowledge and skill of people involved in the vaccination programme, the efficacy of the vaccine, and others.

At the same time, to eliminate the fear and doubts of people regarding rabies and vaccine, the state has sent a representation to the Union Health Ministry to reassess the efficacy of the anti-rabies vaccine. The health department also kick-started a mass campaign to generate awareness on animal bites, first-aid, and follow-up treatment.

According to the health department, it’s because of the reports of the increase in the number of dog bite-related human deaths both among vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals in the state that the expert committee is being constituted.

Other than the DME, director of Institute of Virology Dr E Sreekumar; Dr Reetha S Many, additional professor, department of neurology, NIMHANS Bangalore; Drug Controller PM Jayan; Dr Aravind R who is head of the department, Infectious Diseases, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram; deputy director of State Institute of Animal Disease, Palode Dr Swapna Susan Abraham and Dr Harikumar S, assistant director, Public Health, Directorate of Health Services.

As per the terms of reference, the committee will examine:

i. The possible reasons for rabies death in a few vaccinated individuals to whom the serum was also administered.

ii. Missed opportunities to prevent rabies death and strategies to intervene.

iii. Knowledge, attitude, and skill of people involved in vaccination programs

including training needs.

iv. Adequacy of existing vaccination policy and modifications if any.

v. Efficacy of vaccine by analyzing antibody response to the vaccine.

vi. Material management issues including the maintenance of the cold chain.

vii. Instance of omission or commission, if any, from the medical point of view

or otherwise, on the part of any person/persons/ institutions/ establishments for

which they are to be made accountable.

viii. Necessary proposals/suggestions/ recommendations, as to the future course

of action, if any, required to be taken by the Government in this matter and also

suggestions to achieve zero rabies death by 2025.

ix. Any other relevant matter in this connection, that the committee deems fit for

consideration.

At the same time, health minister Veena George in a letter to union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that reassessment of the efficacy of the anti-rabies vaccine is the need of the hour. As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, the efficacy of vaccines including anti-rabies vaccine is entrusted to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization. The minister in her letter also attached the efficacy certificate and batch numbers of the vaccine and serum.

The state this year itself had reported 21 rabies deaths.

Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite.

Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease nearly always causes death. For this reason, anyone who may have a risk of contracting rabies should receive rabies vaccinations for protection.