Thursday, 28 May 2015

Vaccines: One of the best investments one can make?

Vaccines have long been in controversies, be it the relation between vaccines and autism or the voice against forced vaccination. So when one says they might be one of the best investments one can make, it sure sounds a bit bizarre. But imagine there is an infectious disease spreading through your community. It leaves some people crippled; others die from it. Then someone comes along and says,” Here’s something that will protect you and your family from this disease for the rest of your life. And the best part, you can have it for free!” Sounds relieving right?

This kind of scenarios may sound unreal, but it is very real for millions of people from some of the world’s poorest nations. Vaccines which were once out of reach for them are now getting delivered in large numbers every year. That means more parents are feeling the relief of knowing their families are protected.

Let’s start with Polio for instance. Cases are down more than 99 percent since 1988. Last year there was an amazing achievement for India, when it was declared polio free. And as of Nigeria, the number of polio cases is at an all time low. If this feat goes on, 2015 could be the year when for the first time Nigeria goes without a case of wild polio virus and for the first time all of Africa is polio free. And if this commitment is maintained, by 2018 this disease could be eradicated completely from everywhere, forever.

There is also some fantastic progress in delivering basic immunizations for diseases like measles and pneumonia. According to the public health group Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, expanding vaccine coverage in the next five years can save as many as 6 million lives and unlock more than $100 billion in economic benefit.

Vaccines save lives, which is a reason enough to make sure they get out there. They also give rise to a ripple effect. When the health of a country improves, poor countries can divert funds to other economic development activities like infrastructure, roads, etc. which drive growth thus helping them to depend less on aids. Vaccines can deliver all this for, in some cases, free. May be its time we see them as investments!  
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Monday, 11 May 2015

Mission Indradhanush: India’s take on ‘closing the immunization gap’

On 25th December 2014, the Government of India launched a special drive to vaccinate all unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children and pregnant women by 2020 under the Universal Immunization Programme.

Since the inception of the Universal Immunization Programme in 1985, complete immunization coverage in India has not exceeded 65% despite all efforts. Mission Indradhanush aims at expanding this coverage to more than 90%.

Under the Mission Indradhanush the government has identified about 201 high focus districts across the country. These districts have been identified based on a composite indicator, considering full immunization coverage, number of partially vaccinated and unvaccinated children and weather the district is an identified HPD or EPRP HR district. About 50% of all the partially vaccinated and unvaccinated children of India are in these 201 districts. Intensified routine immunization campaigns would help reduce the mortality due to vaccine preventable diseases in these parts of India. This will be done through special catch-up campaigns to rapidly increase full immunization coverage.

Mission Indradhanush aims at optimizing key functional areas of the immunization programme to ensure high degree of coverage throughout the country with special focus on the identified 201 districts.

The broad strategy based on evidence and best practices, will include four key elements:

1. Careful planning of campaigns/sessions at all levels: All plans and sessions need to be carefully planned at a micro level to ensure availability of sufficient vaccinators and all vaccines during routine immunization sessions. Special plans need to be developed to  reach the unreached children and pregnant women in vacant sub centre areas, areas with missed RI sessions, high risk settlements such as urban slums, construction sites, brick kilns, nomadic sites, and hard to reach areas identified under the polio eradication initiatives etc.

2. Effective Communication and social mobilization efforts: To create awareness and need for immunization services through need based communication strategies to enhance participation of the community in the routine immunization programme through mass media, inter personal conversation, youth networks etc.

3. Intensive training of health officials and frontline staff: To build the capacity of health officials and workers in routine immunization activities to help deliver quality immunization services.

4. Establish accountability framework through task forces: To increase the accountability and involvement of the district administrative and health machinery by strengthening the district task force for immunization in all districts of India.

Mission Indradhanush has the potential to deliver a complete 360degree package of solution to achieve high quality routine immunization coverage through a collaborative process involvin all major stakeholders and adopting the learning from the polio eradication programme in planning and implementation of the mission.
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Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Know More

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