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It is not just about polio

Ruchira Talapatra, New Delhi, Apr 10, 2015, DHNS: 21:20 IST
India has two per cent land size, as compared to the rest of the world, but 21 per cent disease burden. In such a populous country communicable infections are rampant. And immunisation is critical,” says Dr Sajeev Bagai, vice chairman and director at Dwarka Manipal Hospital.

According to WHO estimates, 2.4 to 3.0 million cases of Hib diseases occur annually
in the country with total deaths estimated to be at 72,000 (2009).

“Vaccine or preventable disease is a birth right of every child in India. In India we follow the norms for immunisation for infants under-five which is in line with Indian Association of Paediatircs and WHO,” he tells Metrolife.

The introduction of Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccine as Pentavalent vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in India, aims to bring down the morbidity and mortality associated with Hib disease.

Pentavalent vaccines are five individual vaccines in one, intended to protect infant children from five potentially deadly diseases: Haemophilia Influenza type B (the bacteria that causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis), whooping cough (or Pertussis), tetanus, Hepatitis B and diphtheria.

Hospital-based studies in India show that Hib contributes 40-50 per cent of all meningitis and 25-30 per cent of all pneumonia cases. Hib is the most common cause of meningitis and the second largest cause of pneumonia in India.

“Some of the vaccines last a lifetime whereas others gradually lose their potency, but by that time one is an adult and the mortality rate from the disease is reduced,” says Dr Bagai.

Dr Krishan Chugh, director and HOD, Paediatrics, Fortis Hospital, tells Metrolife, “The vaccine for pneumonia that we have at present cannot be made available to large segments of population in the country as it is very expensive.” One dose of the pneumonia vaccine costs Rs 3,000 and one requires at least three of the same to rid themselves of the disease.

In comparison “One can obtain the Hib vaccine for Rs 200, which requires four doses and will prevent pneumonia,” Chugh says.

According to him, if one gets these vaccines during childhood they remain insulated for a long time.

Indeed in the sustained drive to eradicate polio from the country, many other fatal childhood diseases took a backseat. “Similar health campaigns are required to tackle other diseases like diphtheria and tetanus which are often overlooked,” Chugh said.

“We cannot rest until the lives of all children everywhere are protected through immunisation. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to shield our children, especially the most vulnerable, from illness with vaccination. The task is challenging but achievable if we all work together,” Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Jagat Prakash Nadda had said at the launch of the Indradhanush Mission, in December last year.

Dr Chugh says that there are many constraints in taking the mission Indradhanush or #babiesneedyou campaign by UNICEF, to the remote areas. The various reasons he says are transportation cost of the vaccines, the lack of technology to maintain the right conditions, lack of competent workers and paucity of funds.

Seeking to allay fears, in view of the negative public opinion about the Pentavalent vaccine, especially following cases of deaths of children or AEFI (WHO - Adverse events following immunisation), Dr Chugh says, “The vaccine is completely free of side-effects, and needs to be applied with the same force as polio vaccine.”

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