Union Health ministry has launched single vaccine for dual protection against measles and rubella as part of Universal Immunization Programme.
The ministry launched Measles Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the country at a function in Bengaluru on Sunday in the presence union ministers Sadananda Gowda, Ananth Kumar and Faggan Singh Kulaste among others.
Officials said that the campaign against these two diseases will start from five States (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep) covering nearly 3.6 crore target children. Following the campaign, Measles-Rubella vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization, replacing the currently given two doses of measles vaccine, at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age.
Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Faggan Singh Kulaste said that the government is committed to eradicating Measles and Rubella from the country. “We have taken this as an achievable target. This shall be taken up in a mission mode and rolled out in partnership with States , NGOs and development partners such as WHO, UNICEF, Gates Foundation, Lions Club, IPA, IMA, etc. In the nationwide campaign, the Ministry will reach out to and cover 41 cr children in the age group of 9 months – 15 years,” he said.
MR vaccine will be provided free- of- cost across the states from session sites at schools as well as health facilities and outreach session sites. Measles vaccine is currently provided under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). However, rubella vaccine will be a new addition. After the completion of the campaign, MR vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization and will replace measles vaccine, given at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age of the child.
Measles is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children. It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Measles can make a child vulnerable to life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and brain infection. Globally, in 2015, measles killed an estimated 1, 34,200 children—mostly under-5 years. In India, it killed an estimated 49,200 children.
Rubella is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which is a cause of public health concern. CRS is characterised by congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular and society in general. In 2010, an estimated 1,03,000 children were born with CRS (congenital rubella syndrome) globally, of which around 47,000 children, i.e. 46% were in South-East Asia Region.