Delhi may miss vaccine target over consent rider
Delhi might not be able to complete the ongoing countrywide measles-rubella (MR) vaccine campaign, if the court does not review its decision and agree on an opt-out method of consent.
Over 55.5 lakh children were to be given the MR vaccine during the two-month long campaign. However, a day before it was to start on January 16, the Delhi High Court deferred it saying that proper informed consent had not been sought. The final order asked the Delhi government to seek written consent from all parents.
The Delhi government will challenge the decision in front of a two-judge bench in the high court.
“We will have to give up on the campaign mode if the decision is not overturned in the review petition. Then, we will vaccinate the children as and when they come to our healthcare facilities,” said an official from the health department of Delhi government, on condition of anonymity.
The current order of the court cannot be implemented, the official said. “As per the court’s order, the health department will have to get written consent from each and every child. There is no way that we will be able to get consent from the parents of 95% of the children,” the official explained.
Apart from that, the court has also asked the Delhi government to advertise the complete vaccination time-table, along with detailed pros and cons of the vaccine.
“This is an impossible task. If we give out a detailed time-table, the advertisement would take up pages and pages. A lot of money would be needed just for this. Plus, we might not strictly be able to adhere a date-wise time-table, if we need to postpone the campaign in some schools because of logistical problems, it will be a contempt!” said the official.
There are nearly 10,000 formal and informal schools in the city where the vaccination campaign was to be carried out.
The national campaign, aimed at eliminating measles and controlling rubella, was started in February 2017. So far, 22 crore children have been vaccinated in 30 states and Union territories.
The one-time campaign was launched to reach at least 95% of all children between the ages of 9 months and 15 years to knock out the viruses from the population.
“Ideally, all the eligible children should receive the vaccination at the same time to ensure that we knock out the virus completely from the country, just like polio. Since India is a big country, we have undertaken this campaign so that all eligible children get it within a couple of years. If the coverage of 95% is not achieved even in one state we will fail in our objective,” said Dr Pradeep Haldar, deputy commissioner, immunisation, ministry of health and family welfare.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that starts with fever, runny nose, cough, and rashes and complications like encephalitis or swelling of the brain can lead to death. Measles is also associated with secondary infections like pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Rubella also causes mild fever and rashes but in pregnant women, it can lead to spontaneous abortion or birth defects and improper development of organs in the foetus.