VELLORE : The need of the hour is a systematic monitoring mechanism to check the prevalence of Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), said noted vaccination expert Dr Jacob John, a retired professor of virology at Christian Medical College, as the country is set to introduce the vaccine for rubella under the National Immunisation Programme (NIP).
Welcoming media reports that for the first time India was all set to roll out vaccination for rubella (also called German measles) as a combination vaccine against measles and rubella from June, targeting children and women in the reproductive age group, John, a former member of the National Technical Advisory Group of Immunization, cautioned that if the vaccination drive was not planned well, the epidemiological shift due to inadequate coverage would affect older people, leading to paradoxical increase in CRS.
While reports of children being affected by rubella have surfaced from many parts of the country for several years, monitoring of outbreaks had started only four years back. “We still do not know out of what population these cases were being reported and assessed,” John pointed out.
If India wants to include rubella in the national immunisation drive, a study on the exact case count of affected persons has to be undertaken before the vaccine is introduced, he reasoned.
According to John, rubella is not a major threat to the general population, but if pregnant mothers are infected, it is likely to affect the babies who might be born with congenital problems. John feels that the optimum vaccination coverage should be 80 per cent among children. This will work since these children will not be affected even when they reach the reproductive age. While most countries administer the rubella vaccine to girls in the child-bearing age group, it is still not known what is the right age for adolescent girls here to receive the vaccination, he said.
The government should devise a well-planned strategy and policy to improve the immunisation system while launching the drive against rubella, otherwise we may end up with more cases of CRS, John warned.