More than one third of children in India are not fully vaccinated against life-threatening diseases such as tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B, government data shows.
Only 65% of children in India receive all vaccines under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), which is one of India’s flagship health programme for the past 30 years.
The coverage has increased by only 4% in the last 4 years (at the rate of 1% per year), prompting the government to launch Mission Indradhanush with a target of 90% coverage by 2020.
Union health minister JP Nadda launched the initiative on Monday.
“We have identified 201 high focus districts across the country that have the highest number of partially vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Nearly 50% of such children are in these 201 districts that we will cover under the first phase of the mission,” said Nadda.
India has the highest number of unvaccinated children in the world. Of the 89 lakh children that do not receive all vaccines available under the UIP, 17 lakh do not receive any vaccination.
“These unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children are most susceptible to childhood diseases, disability and run three to six times higher risk of death,” Nadda said.
Mission Indradhanush will provide immunization against seven life-threatening diseases- diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B.
Vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis and Haemophilus influenza type B will also be provided in selected states of the country where incidences of the these diseases are high.
“The reason for giving the programme a push was felt because we realized we weren’t covering children as fast as we should have. The government aims to fully vaccinate every child in the country to reduce child mortality and morbidity,” said CK Mishra, additional secretary, health ministry.
Vaccines for diarrhoea and measles-rubella under the UIP are also scheduled to be rolled out by year end.
Four special vaccination campaigns will be conducted for seven days, starting April 7, 2015 and will be repeated on the same date for four consecutive months to cover all children under two years of age and pregnant women for tetanus vaccine.