Immunisation plays a very important role in curing diseases. Let's take a look at India's contributions towards strengthening immunisation and how it saving millions of lives.
It was on April 24th in 1184 BC that the Greeks sneaked into Troy using the Trojan horse. In AD 1877, on the same day of the month, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire. A little more than two decades later the Spanish-American war was fought on the same day in 1898. Then, in 1920, the Polish troops attacked Ukraine – again on April 24th.
Nearly a century later, this April 24th will mark the beginning of a global effort to attack disease-causing microbes through immunisation. The World Immunisation Week (April 24-30) is a worldwide health campaign to raise awareness and increase rates of immunisation against vaccine-preventable diseases.
You would already know that immunisation is imperative in the containment of vaccine-preventable diseases such as cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella, and tetanus. However, did you know that global vaccination coverage has plateaued at 86%?
An estimated 19.5 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines. 1 in 10 infants did not receive any vaccinations in 2016. Around 60% of unvaccinated infants live in 10 countries – Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa.
The silver lining is that there’s an increasing uptake of new and underused vaccines.
Other facts of immunisation
Immunisation is a single cost-effective preventive health intervention. Vaccinations not only prevent fatal and debilitating diseases but also enable national priorities such as education and economic development. Polio eradication is the first milestone of WHO’s Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). Here are some more facts:
- Currently, immunisation prevents 2-3 million death annually from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and measles
- Improvement in the global vaccination coverage could save another 1.5 million lives
- A new vaccine against dengue has been licensed in several countries, and the first vaccine against malaria will be piloted in three African countries this year
- Meningitis - A vaccine introduced in December 2010 has led to the control and near elimination in 26 African countries through mass vaccination campaigns. The vaccine is now part of a routine national immunisation programme
- Accelerated immunisation efforts have been instrumental in the 84% decline in deaths due to measles during 2000-2016
- More than a decade of mass vaccination has eliminated measles in the Americas
- Polio has been eradicated from India and south-east Asia. It’s restricted to a few places in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Outbreaks in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa have been stopped too
- Maternal and neonatal tetanus has been eradicated from south-east Asia, Europe, and the Americas
- Vaccines can help limit the spread of antibiotic resistance
These accomplishments are the fruits of WHO’s collaborative efforts with countries and partners to improve global vaccination coverage, including those through initiatives adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2012. The roadmap envisages preventing millions of deaths through more equitable access to vaccines by 2020. In May 2017, Ministers of Health from 194 countries endorsed a new resolution on strengthening immunisation to achieve the goals of the GVAP.
Running for forty years now, India’s own immunisation programme is one of the largest in the world.
Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) provides free vaccines to children and expecting mothers against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases.
Table 1 Mission Indradhanush Accomplishments: Vaccination count since 2015
India partners with WHO and other such multilateral agencies.
Mission Indradhanush: Version 2.0
The Intensified Mission Indradhanush is striving for 90% immunisation coverage in 2018 instead of the previous 2020 timeline. Mission Indradhanush is now being rolled out in 190 districts – 68% are rural, 27% in the north-east, and the remaining 9% urban. The four states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh are being prioritised as the focal point of Mission Indradhanush, as are the two north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
The mission wants to address the challenge of the 27% children and 21% pregnant women who are being missed in the immunisation coverage. Every year, five lakh children die in India due to vaccine-preventable diseases and another 89 lakh are susceptible due to incomplete or no vaccination. These children have either not been vaccinated or not completed the vaccination schedule. The main reasons identified for this issue include apprehensions of adverse effects following immunisation (AEFI), awareness-information gap, and operational gaps due to the mission faltering.
Full immunisation against preventable childhood diseases will save the lives of children in this country. As the nation bolsters the health of its children, it is preparing for a future that will see healthy and capable individuals who can actively contribute towards sustainable economic development.