Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Immunization against Measles – Rubella in India

The World Health Organization has congratulated India for launching the world’s largest immunization campaign against Measles – Rubella. The campaign targets Measles, a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. The virus is from the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. It is spread by sneezing, coughing or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions, infecting the respiratory tract. The campaign is additionally targeting, the congenital rubella syndrome (CRS); responsible for permanent effects such as irreversible birth defects, deafness and cataracts.  

In India, Measles affect 2.5 million children annually whereas the congenital rubella infection, also known as the German Measles, affects 25,000 children born in the country. In recent years, due to consistent efforts, the mortality rate has declined by 51% from the year 2000 to 49,000 in the year of 2015.

The Union Health Ministry has launched the Measles – Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign
in Bengaluru on 5th February, proving India’s commitment to improve the country’s health by protecting children against vaccine preventable diseases. The campaign targeting two diseases will cover nearly 3.6 crore children will start from five states and union territories (UTs), namely, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep. 

In the nationwide campaign, the ministry will reach out to and cover 41 crore children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years,” says MoS Health Faggan Singh Kulaste.  

A specified age group will get a single shot of Measles - Rubella vaccine irrespective of the previously introduced Measles/rubella vaccine status or disease status. The Measles Rubella vaccine will be provided free of cost across states from schools as well as to health facilities. Earlier, in 1985, Measles vaccine was part of the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP), but due to the introduction of the Measles - Rubella vaccine, the monovalent vaccine (Measles) will be discontinued and replaced by the bivalent vaccine (Measles - Rubella).    

The World Health Organization has set a Sustainable Goal Target, which aims to prevent the deaths of newborns and children under five years of age by 2030. Thus, the elimination of Measles and congenital rubella syndrome by the bivalent vaccine will contribute to the achievement of the set goal.
We, at Hilleman Laboratories, believe that by not getting vaccinated you are not only putting yourself at risk but also the people around you. To ensure the effectiveness of the campaign, it’s important that throughout its duration, no individual is left behind. An important learning taken away from the polio eradication programme was to further the strengthening of surveillance for Measles- Rubella and to identify infected and vulnerable areas. The parents, caregivers, community leaders, teachers and the frontline healthcare providers are urged to become active participants and advocates for the campaign. Consistent efforts are the only way to rapidly build up immunity and thereby reducing the huge socio-economic burden on the susceptible cohort.

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