The World Health Organization (WHO) has congratulated India for launching one of the worldÂs largest vaccination campaign against measles, a major childhood killer disease, and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), responsible for irreversible birth defects. The campaign launched today to vaccinate more than 35 million children in the age group of nine months to 15 years with MR (measles and rubella) vaccine, once again demonstrates IndiaÂs commitment to improve health and well-being of its people by protecting children against vaccine preventable diseases, a statement issued here said. The first phase of the campaign is significant as it is expected to accelerate the countryÂs efforts to eliminate measles which affects an estimated 2.5 million children every year, killing nearly 49 000 of them. The campaign also marks the introduction of rubella vaccine in IndiaÂs childhood immunization programme to address CRS which causes birth defects such as irreversible deafness and blindness in nearly 40 000 children every year. India has made important efforts and gains against measles in recent years. Measles deaths have declined by 51% from an estimated 100 000 in the year 2000 to 49 000 in 2015.
This has been possible by significantly increasing the reach of the first dose of measles vaccine, given at the age of nine months under routine immunization programme, from 56% in 2000 to 87% in 2015. In 2010 India introduced the second dose of measles-containing vaccine in routine immunization programme to close the immunity gap and accelerate measles elimination. Nearly 118 million children aged nine months to 10 years were vaccinated during mass measles vaccination campaigns between 2010 and 2013 in select states of India. Simultaneously, India continues to further strengthen surveillance for measles and rubella, an important learning from IndiaÂs polio eradication programme that helped to identify infected and vulnerable areas and populations and enabled the programme adopt appropriate strategies to eradicate the disease.
India has already beaten smallpox, polio, maternal and neonatal tetanus and, very recently, yaws. Further gains in the battle against measles will help achieve a number of other public health priorities, the statement added.The campaign was formally launched at a function in Bengaluru and will extend to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep covering 35 million children. Following the campaign, MRV will be introduced in routine immunization, replacing the currently given two doses of measles vaccines, at 9-12 months and 16-24 months.The MR campaign targets 410 million children across the country, the largest ever in any country , covering all children aged between 9 months and less than 15 years of age with a single shot of MR vaccination irrespective of their previous measles/rubella status.The vaccine will be provided free of cost across the States from session at schools as well as health facilities and outreach session sites. Measles vaccine is currently provided under Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). However, rubella vaccine will be a new addition. Measles is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children.
It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Measles can make a child vulnerable of life threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea and brain infection. Globally in 2015, measleas killed 1.34 lakh children mostly under-five years, killing 49,000. Rubella is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing congential rubella syndrome (CRS) which is a cause of public health concern. The CRS is characterized by congential anomalies in the foetus and newborns affecting the eyes, ears, brain and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular and society in general.”