Invest in immunisation to ensure better life for India’s children
Landmark immunisation campaigns demonstrate India’s resolve to make three of the newest vaccines available not just to those who can afford them, but to all children through the Universal Immunisation Programmeopinion Updated: Mar 31, 2017 21:47 IST
India’s recent record-breaking launch of 104 satellites from a single rocket is not the only launch to have been breaking records lately. Last month we saw an immunisation campaign launched, which aims to vaccinate 41 crore children against measles and rubella over the next two years, making it one of largest and most ambitious vaccination campaigns ever.
And in addition to this, recently we have seen two more important vaccine launches aimed at protecting children against two of the biggest childhood killers, diarrhoea and pneumonia.
All three of these launches form part of a major drive, throughout 2017 and beyond, to reduce childhood mortality by targeting three of the biggest yet highly preventable childhood killer diseases, as well as one that causes irreversible and devastating birth defects.
And as if that weren’t enough, these launches also represent a subtle but important shift that will be felt within India for generations to come, because they demonstrate India’s resolve to make three of the newest vaccines available not just to those who can afford them, but to all children through the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
Until now these vaccines were only available on the private markets. By making these vaccines available through UIP, these three launches have huge potential to dramatically reduce that number, and in the process, help to bring down global childhood mortality too, saving countless lives for years to come.
Pneumonia and diarrhoea, for example, claim the lives of more children than any other diseases in the world, currently killing 9.2 lakh and 7.6 lakh under-fives globally each year respectively. With India home to 297,000 of these, it has by far the highest burden of both these diseases in the world.
However, now by introducing pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, which protect against two of the main causes of pneumonia and diarrhoea, India has taken a radical step towards changing that.
If India’s track record in overcoming seemingly insurmountable immunisation challenges is anything to go by – first with the eradication of smallpox and then more recently with polio, and maternal and neonatal tetanus – it will be successful.
Seth Berkley is CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
The views expressed are personal