free vaccines
The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi stated India will now provide four new vaccines in order to reduce child mortality. With these added four free vaccines, the country now has 13 vaccines that are a part of India’s Universal Immunization Program (UIP), provided to 27 million children annually.

The four vaccines are for rotavirus, which causes dehydration and severe diarrhea, killing nearly 80,000 children in India each year, rubella, which causes severe congenital defects in newborns like blindness, deafness and heart defects, polio–although India was declared polio free in March, this is to create long lasting protection against it and Japanese encephalitis, which kills hundreds of children each year.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The introduction of four new life-saving vaccines will play a key role in reducing childhood and infant mortality and morbidity in the country. Many of these vaccines are already available through private practitioners to those who can afford them. The government will now ensure that the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of society, regardless of social and economic status.”

One of the most recent vaccines to be added to the UIP is the pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five different infections: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and Hib.

UIP has become one of the largest vaccination programs in the world in terms of number of vaccines used, amount of beneficiaries, number of immunization session organized, geographical spread and diversity of areas covered.

In 1978, the national policy of immunization adopted the distribution of DPT, OPV and BCG to children in their first year of life. In 1985, UIP was phased in, adding a measles vaccine and later Vitamin A supplements.

The UIP has a vaccination schedule, in which a child can be given certain vaccines during the appropriate time frame of their life (birth, six weeks, 10 weeks, 9-12 months, etc.).

Since the UIP’s launch in 1985, the country has seen more and more preventative vaccines added to secure the health of their citizens.

So far, they have still had issues with 100 percent vaccinations, one of the reasons being citizens not knowing the need or not knowing where to go for the vaccines, showing the lack of awareness has become one of the greatest barriers to universal immunizations.

India has future plans to combat this. One of the methods is to find ways to bring the immunization programs further into living areas rather than just in hospitals or clinics that many citizens do not know about. Immunization booths are to be placed from the center of urban areas to the middle of any slum where access would seem impossible otherwise.

India also plans on monitoring the program, giving accountability and oversight to ensure the quantity and quality of care is assured. The impact and output are to be recorded throughout each vaccination mission.

The programs implemented so far have helped India immensely, and with the future plans to make the universal immunizations more universal, it will only be a matter of time until everyone has full access to proper coverage.

– Courtney Prentice 

Sources: BBC, Hindustan Times, NHP, IAPCOI, Indian Pediatrics
Photo: BBC