Universal immunisation to go on Centre to SC

Universal immunisation to go on Centre to SC

The Centre has told the Supreme Court it will continue to pursue its free programme as it was not only life-saving for the 2.7 crore children born every year in the country but also helped them avoid diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus.

In an affidavit, the Health and Family Welfare Ministry submitted that it was committed to ensuring that the benefit of modern scientific inventions, such as vaccines, reach all sections of society, irrespective of their buying capacity.

It said the World Health Organisation has recommended the immunisation programme. Besides, it has been endorsed by Indian Council of Medical Research and the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.

“The government is committed to reduction in child mortality as an estimated 14 lakh children below five  years of age die annually due to various preventable causes. Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions in reducing mortality and morbidity due to vaccine-preventable diseases,” it said.

The government was making its stand clear in response to a petition filed by Dr Yogesh Jain, who had contended that the government must stop the pentavalent vaccination programme.

The pentavalent vaccine is a combination of vaccines to five diseases—diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type b—which lead to meningitis, pneumonia and otitis. Together, these infections cause a substantial number of deaths and disabilities if children are not vaccinated, it added.

The government also pointed out that private practitioners charge Rs 6,000 for this vaccine, which would be beyond the reach of poor people. “At this enormous cost, the poor and the neediest are the ones whose children are deprived of this protection against illness, death and disability,” it said.

It further said that the same pentavalent vaccine was used without any cause for concern in 85 countries globally and in various other combinations in 184 countries.
The government rejected a contention of the petitioner that 54 deaths took place due to the pentavalent vaccine, terming it as “absolutely baseless and without any merit”.

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