The world's richest man, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who arrived in New Delhi on a four-day India visit Monday, will launch the second phase of a children's vaccine programme in Andhra Pradesh.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 had announced a five-year grant for the programme. Gates, who will be in the southern state on November 13 and 14, will launch the second phase Thursday.
After covering six districts in the first phase, the programme is being expanded to six more districts to immunise about one million children born each year in the 12 districts against Hepatitis B.
The five-year programme was launched in November last year through a partnership between Andhra Pradesh and the Children's Vaccine Programme (CVP) at the US-based Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) to introduce the Hepatitis B vaccine and strengthen immunisation
services in the state.
James Cheyne, associate director, CVP/PATH, told reporters that Gates would review the implementation of the first phase and launch the second phase.
Project manager Raj Kumar said Gates was likely to visit a health centre in Mahabubnagar district to review progress.
He will spend half a day in meetings with Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, district collectors and PATH officials.
Of the $25 million grant for the five-year vaccine programme, $12.5 million is given for the children's vaccine programme, while another $6.5 million is for developing a vaccine for the Indian Rotavirus. The remaining $6 million will go to PATH for administrative expenses.
The project is aimed at increasing immunisation coverage in the state to 85 percent by 2005.
Each year, 20 percent of the cost of the programme will be shifted from CVP/PATH to the state government, and by 2005 the government will manage and finance the entire programme. During these five years the government will spend Rs.300 million on the programme.
The programme enabled Andhra Pradesh to become the first state in the country to introduce the Hepatitis B vaccine and integrate it with routine immunisation programme and also introduce auto-disable syringes.
The vaccine is now available free of cost in government-run health centres for all the newborn along with six vaccines to prevent diseases like tuberculosis, tetanus and polio.
By introducing the Hepatitis B vaccine and achieving 85 percent coverage in all districts, the projects aim to save about 6,000 lives each year from complications resulting from the Hepatitis B infection.
Raj Kumar said the main objectives of the programme include promoting safe injection practices, creating a name-based registry for tracking immunisation of every child and supporting state government efforts to control Japanese Encephalitis.
The programme will serve as a model for the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI) India project to be launched in 15 cities in India this year and 32 districts next year.
The first phase covered the six districts of Guntur, Mahabubnagar, Chittoor, Ananthapur, Kurnool and Cuddapah.
The second phase will cover Krishna, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagarm, Warangal and Adilabad to immunize 5,000 children born in these districts every year.