The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine is focusing on private doctors to ensure that they administer tetanus and adult diphtheria (Td) vaccines instead of the earlier tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccine, particularly for pregnant women.
The directorate is holding district-level meetings with private practitioners to ensure that the shift is complete across the State.
In light of a diphtheria outbreak in Kerala a few years ago, Tamil Nadu moved from TT to Td vaccines last year. While public health officials say that the shift was complete in the government sector, there were a few gaps in the private sector, especially while immunising pregnant women, officials said.
For this, the directorate, along with the World Health Organisation team, Indian Medical Association, Indian Academy of Paediatrics and Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India, is conducting district-wise meetings with private practitioners. Presently, the second round of meetings is under way, K. Kolandaswamy, director of public health, said.
A baby receives three doses of pentavalent vaccine that gives protection against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and HiB. The first DPT (Diphtheria Pertussis Tetanus) booster shot is administered when it is 16 to 24 months old, followed by the second booster dose at five years. Following the shift in vaccination, a child receives Td vaccine at 10 years and at 16 years, he explained.
“For pregnant women, the first dose of Td vaccine is administered at the time of registration, that is 12 weeks of pregnancy. The second dose is given a month later. It is here that we find that TT is still administered in a few places, and we track such women. We are reaching out to private doctors to ensure that they administer Td to pregnant women,” he said.
Public health officials find no hardship in covering children in government and government-aided schools. “There needs to be more awareness for immunising children studying in private schools. Parents feel why their children need vaccines as they grow up. Some of them do not bring the child for the second booster shot,” he added.
To improve immunisation against diphtheria, the directorate has continued its drive in private schools for the last three years. It was also taking up special drives in hill areas to cover children who had been left out, officials said.