Benefits of vaccines to reach all Indian children by 2020- Mission ‘Indradhanush’

Benefits of vaccines to reach all Indian children by 2020- Mission ‘Indradhanush’

By Dr. Rakesh Kumar, JS, RCH, Ministry of Health &Family Welfare

New Delhi, January24: Immunization is the most cost-effective public health intervention to prevent child mortality and morbidity.

On 25th December, 2014, the Union Health Minister Sri J P Nadda flagged off ‘Mission Indradhanush’ – which will strengthen the routine immunization system to ensure that all children in our country are protected from life-threatening, vaccine preventable diseases.

Mission Indradhanushwill targets 201 high priority districts in the first year, which have more than 50 per cent of partially immunized and unimmunized children. 82 of these districts are located in just 4 states, namely, UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. These 4 states alone account for nearly a fourth of the partially vaccinated and unvaccinated children in the country. Targeted efforts to intensify routine immunization in these districts will begin with special vaccination drives conducted in early 2015 but will continue with activities to strengthen the routine immunization system. These special immunization drives will be conducted in addition to the routine immunization activities.

India is home to the world’s largest vaccination programme, providing life-saving vaccines against 7 deadly diseases, free of cost, to the country’s 27 million children. The concept of Mission Indradhanush reflects protecting children against 7 childhood diseases that are covered under the Universal lmmunization Programme (UIP). The programme aims to ensure equitable access to these vaccines to all children in the country, irrespective of region, gender or socio-economic status.In the past, immunization has contributed to the eradication of deadly diseases like small pox and eradicationof crippling diseases like polio. Vaccines have helped to dramatically reduce the burden of several common childhood diseases in India.

Despite significantly high coverage for individual vaccines, India’s full immunization coverage remains at only 65.2%. Nearly 35 percent (9.46 million) children in India remain partially immunized or unimmunized. Between 2009 and 2013, just about a million more children were fully immunized, an increased coverage rate of just 1% per year. Remember, every unimmunized child carries approximately a six times higher risk of death as compared to a fully immunized child.

Vaccines are among the most cost-effective interventions against preventable childhood illnesses. An effective vaccine protects an individual against a specific infectious disease and its complications. Vaccines work by priming our immune system against infectious diseases by triggering antibodies that help fight the infection. This helps the immune system mount a quicker, stronger and more sustained response if exposed to the same pathogen the next time.

By preventing infection, vaccines also prevent its long-term complications in the vaccinated and provide herd immunityin the community. It occurs when a significant proportion of children within a community are protected against a disease through immunization. In the case of a highly contagious disease such as measles, more than 95% of the children must be vaccinated to achieve sufficient herd immunity to prevent spread. This is why it is important that we all ensure that children are immunized, to protect them and the wider community around us.The benefits of these vaccines is also far-reaching as healthier children miss fewer days at school and grow into healthy, productive adults.

Mission Indradhanush will bring together government agencies, public health institutions, development partners, civil society, media, corporates and other stakeholders to launch a concerted effort to accelerate improvements in the reach of the UIP and achieve full immunization coverage by the year 2020 and ensure that no child remains deprived of the benefits of life-saving vaccines.

(The writer of this article for www.meditoall .com Dr. Rakesh Kumar has served at many exalted positions. Important among them are as health specialist for unicef India and project Director of World Bank. He has been trained as doctor of medicine at AIIMS)

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