Routine vaccination plays an essential role in a healthy child’s role. Vaccinations not only protect your child from deadly diseases, such as polio, tetanus, and diphtheria, but they also keep other children safe by eliminating or greatly decreasing dangerous diseases that used to spread from child to child. In July this year, a report published jointly the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF said their figures show 25 million children last year failed to get vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, a marker for childhood immunisation coverage, continuing a downward trend that began in 2019.
According to the UN agencies, the children missed out largely because the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular health services or triggered misinformation about vaccines. To throw some light on the impact on Indian children Dr. Mainak Chatterjee, Immunisation Specialist, UNICEF India talked to Financial Express.com and highlighted India has made significant progress in this coverage.
On India’s performance in routine immunisation, Dr. Chatterjee told Financial Express.com: “…As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the routine immunisation has been disrupted. Before the pandemic in 2019, the number of missed out zero-dose children stood out around 1.3 to 1.4 million in India. In 2020, this figure alarmingly went upto 3 million zero-dose children in India. However, in 2021, what we have seen is that there is a reduction in the number of missed out zero-dose children and it means that there is an upward trend in the coverages. The figure now stands that 2.7 million. This isn’t a major improvement but atleast we are on the path of improvement.”
During his conversation with Financial Express.com, Dr. Chatterjee informed that a variety of interventions has been put in place by the Indian government to improve the coverage.
Watch video | Childhood vaccination is an investment for the future: Dr. Mainak Chatterjee, UNICEF India
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an exponential increase in the number of vaccinators in India. The awareness about vaccination is also steadily increasing over the period of time. Our immunisation coverage is more than 75 percent now and that means 3 out of 4 children are getting all vaccines in the first year of life which is great. But we still have that one child out of four who is not getting every vaccine. We have realised that this one child reside in communities which are the urban poor, migrant communities, tribals, scattered geographical areas where reach and access to immunisation is difficult,” Dr. Chatterjee said during the interview.
During the coversation Dr. Chatterjee also pointed out that whenever a vaccine in launched the private sector takes it up first.
“There are some vaccines like HPV whicha are already available in the private sector. But the decision to introduce to something in the public health sector actually depends on the burden of the disease, the financial implications, can the country sustain an introduction for a long period and what is the capacity of the system to deliver and store the vaccine. Since 2010-11, there has been an acceleration in the introduction of vaccines vaccine and that trend is going to rise,” he told Financial Express.com.
Dr. Chatterjee informed that the government is “seriously considering” to include HPV vaccine in the vaccination programme. On Thursday, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Department of Biotechnology announced that India’s first indegenously-made cervical cancer vaccine CERVACAC is ready and it will be launched by the end of this year.
“I think the HPV vaccine is something for which the discussion is ongoing. The typhoid vaccine in certain areas which have high endemicity is also under consideration. I think these are something we can look forward to in the coming years and see whether they are being introduced,” he added.
He also emphasied that India has become self-reliant and the vaccines that are included in “the universal vaccination programme are made in India and for India.”
“We are not dependent on imported vaccines. Whatever vaccines are available in the public health programme they are all Indian vaccines. On that front we have already achieved self-reliance quite a few years ago. In fact, India is a major contributor to the export vaccines not only the COVID-19 vaccines but routine vaccines also. India is a major supplier of the worldwide immunisation campaign. In my opinion, this self-reliance is only going to rise as we move forward,” he said during the interview to Financial Express.com.