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After court halted its MR vaccination campaign, Delhi govt sending 13 lakh doses to UP

PUBLISHED ON NOV 28, 2019 08:41 PM IST

New Delhi

Eleven months after its measles-rubella vaccination campaign hit a roadblock, the Delhi government is transporting around 13 lakh doses of the vaccine to Uttar Pradesh for the upcoming round of Intensified Mission Indradhanush. This was done to prevent wastage of vaccines; most of the doses in the lot will expire by April 2020.

The Delhi high court had deferred the MR vaccination campaign just a day before it was to begin in January stating that informed consent had not been sought from the parents or wards of the children. The state government is yet to appeal the high court judgment.

“The judgment would result in a lot of unnecessary paperwork and we might not even be able to cover 90% of the children. If the coverage is anything less than that under the campaign it will be like pouring vaccines in the drain. We are in the process of filing an appeal but in the meantime, the vaccines should not be wasted,” said an official from Delhi government’s health department, on condition of anonymity.

In five weeks between January 16 and February 2, Delhi was to vaccinate all 55.5 lakh children between the ages of 9 months and 15 years under the one-time campaign coordinated by the Union government across the country.

For the campaign, the state had received a total of 48 lakh doses of the vaccine, of which 24 lakh doses had been given to Rajasthan government for its MR campaign six months ago.

“We did not want to waste any doses, so we wrote to the central government asking them to take back the vaccines soon after the court order. Some of it was sent to Jaipur about six months ago, the rest of it will be sent to Lucknow for the intensified mission Indradhanush. The vaccines are given to states under the union government programmes and the cost is deducted from funds given to the state by the centre. So, these vaccines will be charged under the respective states, but we had to pay for the transportation from our funds,” said an official from the Delhi government health department.

For now the Delhi government has retained about 4 lakh doses of the vaccines, a six month supply of the vaccine for the routine immunisation programme.

“The MR vaccine campaign that was rolled out in 2017 is an additional activity over the routine immunisation programme. Our analysis showed that 95% measles cases and 90% of rubella cases were reported in children below the age of 15, so vaccinating all children in this age group across the country in one go, followed by good immunisation coverage for our birth cohort would mean that the infections can be eliminated in the country,” said Dr Pradeep Haldar, deputy commissioner, immunisation, ministry of health and family welfare.

“So, if any state is left out the elimination targets would take longer,” he said.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease causes with fever, runny nose, cough, and rashes and complications such as encephalitis (swelling of the brain membrane), which can lead to death. Rubella causes mild fever and rashes but in pregnant women, it can lead to spontaneous abortion and birth defects.

Measles affects an estimated 2.5 million children every year, killing nearly 49 thousand. It is a leading cause of death in children with one-third of all measles death worldwide happening in India.

Rubella causes birth defects such as irreversible deafness and blindness in nearly 40 thousand children every year in India.

So far, 340 million children have already received the vaccine under the one-time campaign that started in 2017. Delhi and West Bengal are the only states that are yet to carry out the campaign.

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