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

immunization program
The Universal Immunization Program incorporated four new vaccines against polio, rubella, rotavirus and Japanese encephalitis into their program on July 3. By including vaccines against these four widespread diseases, the UIP hopes to reduce the high child mortality rate found in India.

With the addition of these four vaccines, a total of 13 vaccines will now be available in India for approximately 2.7 million children every year free of charge. According to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, “The government will now ensure the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of society, regardless of social and economic status.”

Not only do these four vaccines made available through the UIP represent a noteworthy achievement in public health, but it also shows the important role programs like this play in developing countries. According to a World Bank report on poverty, approximately one-third of the world’s poor currently lives in India, and the lack of proper medications contributes to this extreme poverty rate.

Polio, rubella and rotavirus are all three well-known diseases that greatly contribute to the high child mortality rate across the world, especially in countries like India where vaccines are extremely difficult to access. According to UNICEF, India is celebrating a three-year victory over polio since no cases of polio have been reported since Jan. 13, 2011. This achievement is particularly remarkable because until 2009, India was reporting more than half of the world’s polio cases. Although India has been able to achieve this landmark success, this injectable polio vaccine provided by the UIP will continuously provide protection against this virus.

Even though rubella, which is also called German measles or 3-day measles, is generally a mild viral infection, it can have serious health consequences when a pregnant woman is infected with the virus. Congenital rubella syndrome, or CRS, can cause congenital defects, such as deafness or blindness, and even fetal death, which is why the UIP focuses on delivering those vaccines to those in need to prevent further infections.

One of the most common effects of rotavirus is diarrhea, which causes approximately 334,000 out of the 2.3 million child deaths in India every year according to the World Health Organization. Especially when compared to other diseases, rotavirus typically affects more children than adults because water makes up a greater proportion of a child’s body weight.

The UIP’s fourth new vaccine against Japanese encephalitis will be introduced to adults in a total of 179 districts in nine states where this disease has been prevalent in India. Even though the severity of symptoms widely varies and there is no specific treatment for Japanese encephalitis, vaccinations are key in preventing the spread of this infection.

The U.N.’s fourth Millennium Development Goal is to reduce the under-5 child mortality rate by two-thirds. As the deadline for this and the other seven goals quickly approaches,  programs like UIP show the amazing progress that is possible among developing countries through widespread access to vaccinations.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: The New Indian Express, WHO 1, WHO 2, CDC, Silicon India News, UNICEF
Photo: The Hindu