HCMC firm offers Pentaxim at high price amid Quinvaxem fears

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The banner advertising 5-in-1 vaccine Pentaxim at a company in Ho Chi Minh City, which is not authorized to sell vaccines in Vietnam. Photo: Huu Khoa/Tuoi Tre The banner advertising 5-in-1 vaccine Pentaxim at a company in Ho Chi Minh City, which is not authorized to sell vaccines in Vietnam. Photo: Huu Khoa/Tuoi Tre

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As parents worry about the cheap 5-in-1 vaccine Quinvaxem following the deaths of many infants, a Ho Chi Minh City company is asking people to deposit money for a more expensive alternative, which is believed to be safer.
Health inspectors Wednesday inspected the Saigon Medical Equipment Company in Tan Binh District after it put up a banner for registration of the 5-in-1 Pentaxim vaccine made by French company Sanofi Pasteur.
The inspection was done since the company is only licensed to sell medicines and medical equipment and not vaccines.
Pham Van Hung, the director of the company, told Tuoi Tre newspaper that it received 300 doses from a company authorized to sell vaccines and plans to cooperate with several medical institutions to administer them in January.
The company is collecting VND500,000 and has said the vaccine would cost VND2 million, three times the price at public medical centers.
At least 27 people have paid the deposit since most medical centers have run out of the vaccine and many have lost confidence in Quinvaxem.
Quinvaxem is a WHO prequalified drug distributed by Berna Biotech Korea Corp and administered in the country for free under a national immunization program to protect children aged two months upward against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type B.
The vaccine was publicly boycotted after nine infants died between November 2012 and March 2013. Authorities suspended the vaccine in May 2013 but lifted the ban in October after investigations found the deaths were not related to the vaccine.
But the media has reported at least nine more baby deaths since the vaccine was brought back, including two from anaphylactic shock in October.
Quinvaxem uses whole-cell preparations in its whooping cough component while more expensive alternatives, like Pentaxim, use purified antigens, which are considered safer.
As the supply of the expensive alternatives is limited in developing countries like Vietnam, paying extra money to book them is a solution for many parents. Some even take their infants overseas for a shot while others decide not to immunize their children at all.
The two official distributors of Pentaxim in Vietnam said that people receiving an offer for the vaccine should know that the medicine did not come from them.
The companies were only supplied 50,000 doses by Sanofi recently and even they are awaiting quality-test results from national medical units.
A recent statement from Sanofi Pasteur to Vietnam's healthcare authorities said it is updating its technologies and production line to meet World Health Organization requirements and would not be able to meet global demand.
Nguyen Nhat Cam, director of the Hanoi Preventive Health Center, said vaccines require special preservation and it is not safe to use vaccines of dubious origin.
Ho Chi Minh City health officials are investigating further.

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