The Kerala government is likely to extend the deadline for the ambitious Measles- Rubella (MR) vaccination drive as the initiative didn’t receive expected results in some districts of the state where an anti-vaccination campaign is reportedly underway. State Health Minister K K Shylaja told PTI that the Health department is ready to extend the deadline of the drive if necessary but would take a final call only after examining the latest district-wise figures in this regard. Though the department is targetting 75 lakh children, belonging to the age group of 9 months to 15 years under the initiative, only 44,30,854 lakh children (59 per cent) could be covered across the state till October 28. Only four days are left to meet the deadline as the month-long campaign will conclude on November 3. However, the minister said only some districts are lagging behind in the rate and the state would achieve its 100 per cent goal in MR vaccination drive at any cost. “I am yet to go through the exact figures.. But, I am told that the vaccination rate is slightly low in some districts like Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur,” Shylaja said.
“We are ready to extend the deadline if necessary.. But we will take such a decision only if it is required.. The state will achieve 100 per cent results.. That i can assure,” she said. The minister further said awareness drives and campaigns would be intensified in areas where the vaccination rate is registered low and would try to bring maximum children of the targeted group under the initiative. According to Health Department figures, of the 14 districts, Malappuram registered the lowest response in the MR vaccination drive. Only 34 per cent children (4,26,931 in numbers) were vaccinated in the northern district so far. Forty eight per cent children (3,54,220 in numbers) covered under the initiative in neighbouring Kozhikode while 50 per cent children (2,88,052) were part of the vaccination drive in Kannur, another north Kerala district, it said.
Malappuram and Kasaragod were among the district where an anti-vaccination campaign by some groups was reported some time back. As per the official figures, Pathanamthitta registered the highest rate in MR vaccination in the state- 87 per cent (1,76,271) , followed by coastal district Alappuzha- 80 per cent (3,20,984). A total of 74 per cent children (4,80,173) vaccinated in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, the figures added. Additional Director, Health Services (Family Welfare), Usha Kumari S said district medical officers have been instructed to intensify awareness campaigns and drives in those districts where the vaccination rate is registered low.
Those children, who could not take vaccination from their schools, can avail it at all nearby government hospitals including primary health centres and selected private hospitals on Wednesday and Friday, she said. The measles-rubella (MR) vaccination drive is envisaged to protect children from two major childhood diseases– measles and rubella through the single vaccine. Besides schools and hospitals, various other agencies including Indian Medical Association, are also cooperating with the drive.