UN-backed measles vaccination drive targets India’s highest risk children

9 November 2010

The next stage of a measles immunization drive supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) began today in India, aiming to reach 134 million children and prevent an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 annual deaths from the disease.

The children in the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh will begin receiving the second dose of their vaccinations as part of a year-long campaign by the Indian Government in the country’s 14 highest risk regions.

“The second dose of measles vaccination drive will make sure that children who were not reached will be protected from this deadly disease,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Representative in India.

“Measles is among the world’s most contagious diseases and one of the leading causes of death among children,” she added.

The highly contagious, viral respiratory infection kills an estimated 400 children every day. Children not vaccinated are at risk of the disease and its severe health complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and encephalitis. Three out of the four children who died from measles in 2008 were from India.

India introduced two dose measles vaccinations a year ago, in line with advice on immunization from the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), the principal advisory body to WHO, which recommends all children should receive two doses of measles vaccination. Between 2000 and 2007 two-dose vaccinations were reported to have averted around 3.4 million measles deaths worldwide.

As part of the Indian national immunisation strategy, 14 states were identified by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) as having less than 80 per cent coverage and were thus advised to introduce a measles catch-up drive for children between the ages of nine months to ten years.

“The Government recognises the importance of vaccinating every child. Assam has taken the lead to launch this immunisation drive, giving a second chance to vulnerable children and to protect the population against measles,” said Dr. J. B. Ekka, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, Government of Assam.

In the rest of the country, the second dose of measles vaccination will be given as part of the Routine Immunisation (RI) programme.

 

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