Four new vaccines have been added to India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), including vaccines against Japanese Encephalitis, rotavirus, rubella and an polio (injectable).
With these new vaccines, India’s UIP will now provide free vaccines against 13 life threatening diseases, to 27 million children annually.
The recommendations to introduce these new vaccines have been made after numerous scientific studies and comprehensive deliberations by the National Technical Advisory Group of India (NTAGI), the country’s apex scientific advisory body on immunization.
The last vaccine to be added to UIP is the pentavalent vaccine, one shot of which protects against five infections – diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT), hepatitis B and Hib.
It was introduced in a phased manner across the country and is currently being used are Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Puducherry. It will be introduced in 11 more states by the end of this year.
The vaccine was rolled out as part of introducing a vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) infection, which is a major cause of meningitis and pneumonia deaths in children.
“Many of these vaccines are already available through private practitioners to those who can afford them. The government will now ensure that the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of the society, regardless of social and economic status,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Diarrhoea caused by rotavirus kills nearly 80,000 children and causes up to 10 lakh hospitalisations, adding an economic burden of over Rs. 300 crore each year.
Last year, India developed and licensed its first indigenous rotavirus vaccine, developed under a public-private partnership by the ministry of science and the ministry of health and family welfare, along with Hyderabad-based company Bharat Biotech.
The UIP also targets rubella, which causes severe congenital defects in newborns, like blindness, deafness and heart defects. It is estimated that nearly two lakh babies are born with congenital defects each year in the country.
The adult vaccine against Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in 179 endemic districts in nine states, is already being given in special drives, but will not become part of UIP.
The Injectable Polio Vaccine (IPV) will be introduced along with 125 countries globally to insure India keeps its polio-free status.