On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced that it would be replacing the Tetanus Toxoid (TT) vaccine with a Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td) combination vaccine. Accepting the recommendations made by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), the Ministry took this decision.
In a letter addressed to the National Health Mission’s Director, an official from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated that replacing the current vaccine with one which offers protection against both tetanus and diphtheria, would be more beneficial than using a tetanus toxoid vaccine alone.
The TT booster dose is currently administered to children at ages 10 and 16 and a booster dose is given to pregnant women as well, which the Ministry will replace with the Td vaccine.
“Everyone knows that after getting any cuts or scrapes, it is important to take a TT injection, but not many understand the reasoning behind the same,” explains Chennai-based general physician Dr Divya Hariharan. “A TT or Tetanus Toxoid injection is given following an injury to prevent tetanus, which is caused by Clostridium tetani spores which are naturally found in the soil and general external environment.”
She further adds that when an injury occurs, the spores can enter the body and cause tetanus or ‘lockjaw’ which affects the brain and central nervous system.
“The spores release a toxin which causes muscle stiffness. It can lead to serious complications and even breathing difficulties. To avoid this, we give the TT injection,” states Dr Divya. “There are some people who say that if you’ve had a TT in the past six months, you need not get it done, however, most hospitals now follow the WHO protocol which says that you needn’t get one done if you’ve had it in the last 5 years.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that five doses of the TT vaccine are given during childhood by the age of 7 and a booster dose be given between the ages of 12 and 15.
With the replacement of the TT vaccine with the Td vaccine, the NTAGI has taken into account the recommendations made by the WHO, which noticed that outbreaks of diphtheria have occurred in a number of countries around the world in 2017 and 2018.
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection which is highly contagious.
“Both TT and diphtheria vaccines are given as a preventive measure. It’s a problem which could easily affect anyone and can be averted with a simple solution. The vaccines are available in a combination form so it is just a more compound way to tackle the problem,” states paediatrician Dr Swetha R from Chennai.
Over 100 countries have already made the switch from the TT to Td vaccines, which according to the WHO doesn’t require much effort. The packaging, pricing, storage and other logistics are all the same as with the TT injection.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has stated that the Td vaccines would replace TT by the end of the year and that the necessarily supplies and training material would be distributed as deemed necessary.