[ Dr D Padung ]
India has achieved monumental milestone of polio eradication in 2014 and Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination in 2015, while further efforts have been made to strengthen routine immunization by introduction of new vaccines, such as Pentavalent and Injectable Polio Vaccine, strengthening cold chain maintenance and intensification of routine immunization through Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI).
Currently, India is committed to the goal of measles elimination and control of rubella/CRS (Congenital Rubella Syndrome) by 2020. To achieve this goal, Measles-Rubella (MR) campaign is being launched all over the country, covering all children between the age group of nine months and below 15 years.
It is the largest campaign ever in the world so far, where about 41 crore children will be covered under this campaign in India, for which, the coordination among Health, Education & ICDS departments and other partners is critical.
The Measles and Rubella vaccine is not a new vaccine and is already being used in a few states in routine immunization and by private practitioners in the country. The Government of India has now decided to introduce this vaccine under routine immunization.
This vaccine Measles-Rubella (MR) prevents children from being infected with the measles (recurrent measles outbreak with fever, macula-papular rash, cough coryza and complications like pneumonia, eye disease leading to blindness etc) and pregnant women from rubella viruses. If women are infected with rubella viruses during early pregnancy, they risk having abortions, still-born babies or giving birth to babies with serious birth defects called Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
It has become more urgent to introduce these vaccines for protecting the future generation of the country.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the MR vaccination campaign is scheduled for February 2018 and on successful completion of the campaign (95% coverage among eligible target), MR vaccines will replace current measles vaccine.
The Department of Health & Family Welfare will be reaching about five lakh children for vaccination in February 2018. This MR vaccine is WHO certified and completely safe, and will be provided free of cost to all beneficiaries.
The campaign requires that the Education Department in the state take the lead for mapping eligible children, line-listing in required formats, submission and planning of school activities in coordination with the Health Department; the reason being that about 75 percent of eligible children are enrolled in schools.
In order to successfully implement this national endeavour, various levels of commitments are anticipated that include highest political commitment, continuous accountability support through state Steering Committee, which is headed by the Chief Secretary and Secretary of HFW, where all the line departments and stakeholder will pledge full support.
At the Directorate level, the MD (NHM), Director Family Welfare and State Immunization Officer will oversee daily progress on preparedness and implementation through a State Operations Group (SOG). Similarly at the district level, the Deputy Commissioner and Municipal Commissioners in Arunachal Pradesh should be heading the campaign at the district and urban areas respectively through District Task Forces, and follow the progress and guide the implementation.
At sub district level, the ADC, SDO, CO, Education Department officials and WCD functionaries will own the programme and support Medical Officers in-charge for proper planning, implementation and monitoring.
With all these preparation and continuous technical support from WHO, UNICEF, ITSU and Government of India, the immunization division of the Health Department looks forward to seamless coordination among line departments, active engagement and support of the local print and electronic media, support from LIONS club in Arunachal Pradesh, NCC, NYK, NSS and other religious and NGOs for intensive planning, successful implementation and monitoring.
Therefore, all parents and guardian must avail this opportunity by vaccinating all children between the age group of nine months and below 15 years during the campaign.
(The contributor is State Immunization Officer, Govt of Arunachal Pradesh.)
[ Dr D Padung ]