Committed to eliminate measles and control rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by 2020, India will include Measles-Rubella (MR) campaign in its universal immunization programme (UIP).
The vaccination is given to the children in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years in a phased manner. This is going to be the largest ever vaccination campaign worldwide and will will replace measles vaccine, currently given at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age of child.
The first phase of measles-rubella vaccination campaign has been successfully completed in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Lakshadweep and Puducherry when more than 3.3 crore children were vaccinated, reaching out to 97% of the intended age group. The campaign was carried out in schools, community centers and health facilities. The next round began on August 1, in 8 states/UTs (Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana and Uttarakhand) from August 2017, aiming to cover 3.4 crore children.
The campaign aims to rapidly build up immunity for both measles and rubella diseases in the community so as to knock out the disease, therefore, all the children should receive MR vaccine during the campaign. For those children who have already received such vaccination, the campaign dose would provide additional boosting to them, a statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has said.
The Measles-Rubella campaign is a part of global efforts to reduce illness and deaths due to measles and rubella/CRS in the country. Measles immunization directly contributes to the reduction of under-five child mortality, and in combination with rubella vaccine, it will control rubella and prevent CRS.
Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children, despite the fact that a safe and effective vaccine has been available for over 40 years. It is a highly a contagious disease, caused by virus of the paramyxovirus family and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person.
Measles is commonly recognizable as a visible red rash with high fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Children who do not have sufficient immunity contract the disease, if exposed and can make a child vulnerable to life threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and brain infection.
Globally, an estimated 1,34,200 deaths were caused from measles in 2015, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available. Measles killed an estimated 49,200 children in 2015 in India, contributing nearly 36% to the global figures.
There has been a 79% global decline in measles deaths from 2000 to 2015 credited to the measles vaccine. The estimated cases and estimated deaths in country, 2015 were 27,68,032 and 49,200 respectively.
Rubella, although a mild viral illness, can lead to serious consequences if infected during early pregnancy, leading to abortion, miscarriage, still birth, and set of congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), which is a cause of public health concern.
CRS is characterized by multiple defects, particularly affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects- many of which are lifelong disabilities, requiring treatment, surgeries and other expensive care throughout life.
In 2010, an estimated 1,03,000 children were born with CRS (congenital rubella syndrome) globally, of which nearly 47,000, i.e. 46% were in South-East Asia Region. An estimated 30,000 children are born with congenital rubella syndrome India.
The measles and rubella vaccines are live, attenuated vaccines. These vaccines are safe and effective vaccine, available for more than 40 years. To provide greater protection, 161 WHO member countries are providing measles second dose in their national immunization programme and rubella vaccine has been introduced in 149 countries.
The MR vaccine used in both the campaign and in routine immunization is WHO-requalified, manufactured in India and is considered very safe and highly effective. Over 33.5 million children have already received the MR vaccine through this campaign. In private sector, parents are charged between Rs. 400 – 900 for MMR vaccination but is given free of cost to benefit all children.