Ten million children — about 37 per cent of 27 million born in India every year — in 10 states will start getting a five-in-one vaccine by the end of the year to protect them against five potential killer diseases.
The vaccine offers protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacterium that causes some forms of pneumonia and meningitis.
The vaccine will be part of the universal immunisation programme (UIP) in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. It will be introduced across the country by 2011.
At present, tetravalent and Hepatitis B vaccines are given under UIP.
Hib vaccine will be the new addition — first in 25 years — to the immunisation programme.
Globally, Hib kills over 370,000 children under the age of five every year; with almost 20 per cent, or 74,000, deaths reported in India. Survivors often suffer permanent brain damage or paralysis.
Children have to be vaccinated thrice to be immunised. Hib vaccination prevents severe bacterial meningitis and offers protection against pneumonia.
“We chose the states with immunisation coverage of over 80 per cent,” said a health ministry official, who didn’t want to identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media. National coverage is 65 per cent.
India’s got a grant for $165 million (Rs 792 crore) from the GAVI Alliance — a public-private partnership that brings together the Indian government, World Health Organisation, Unicef, donors, industry and the Hib Initiative.
Hib vaccine has been in use for nearly 20 years in developed countries, said Dr Mathuram Santosham, executive committee member of the Hib Initiative at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It has virtually eliminated Hib disease in Kenya, Uganda and Gambia.
Pentavalent vaccine was being made in the country. Growing demand will bring down prices and help saves thousands of lives, said Dr Panna Choudhury, president, Indian Academy of Paediatrics.