The Department of Health and Family Welfare has launched the life-saving vaccine ‘Rotavirus’ as part of the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) of the country at Bhubaneswar in Odisha. The vaccine, which aims to curb deaths of children from diarrhea, is being introduced initially in four states i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha and will be expanded to the entire country in a phased manner.
The Rotavirus vaccine has been developed indigenously, under a public-private partnership by the Ministry of Science and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This therefore is a landmark achievement under ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Terming this as an historic moment and an exemplary step in India’s immunisation programme, the Union Health Minister J P Nadda said, “We have achieved a new milestone towards expanding the coverage of full immunisation in the country aimed at reducing child mortality.”
The Minister added that the Government is committed to reducing morbidity and mortality in children. Strengthening routine immunisation is an essential investment in India’s children and will ensure a healthy future of the country, he noted.
Noting that Rotavirus is one of the leading causes of severe diarrhoea and death among children less than five years of age, and that every year nearly 80,000 to one lakh children die in the country due to Rotavirus diarrhoea, and about 9 lakh children are admitted to hospital due to episodes of severe diarrhoea with 32.7 lakh cases of OPD, Nadda stated that introduction of Rotavirus vaccine will enable us to directly address the problem of diarrheal deaths.
“Adding this life-saving vaccine to our immunisation programme will not only improve the health of our children but also reduce hospitalisation and other conditions associated with diarrhoea due to Rotavirus such as malnutrition, delayed physical and mental development among children. Reduced hospitalisation reduces the economic burden on the family and the health cost burden on the country,” Nadda said.
In his address at the introduction of the vaccine in the UIP, the Union Health Minister said that India’s Universal Immunisation Programme launched in 1985 is one of the largest immunisation programmes in the world and a major public health intervention in the country. He added that our government aims to give maximum protection to the children against Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPDs). Following this vision, the Ministry has launched ‘Mission Indradhanush’ in December 2014 to fully immunise more than 89 lakh children who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. In two phases of ‘Mission Indradhanush’ spread over April 2015 to July 2015 and October 2015 to January 2016 a total of 1.42 crore children and 36.7 lakh women were immunized in 20 lakh immunisation sessions. The gains made in ‘Mission Indradhanush’ have led to health systems strengthening, which provides us a good opportunity for the introduction of a new vaccine and ensuring the reach of immunisation programme to each and every child, the Health Minister noted.
In addition, four new vaccines are being introduced as part of UIP including Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), Rotavirus vaccine, Measles, Rubella (MR) vaccine, and Adult Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccine. With these new vaccines, India’s UIP will provide free vaccines against 12 life threatening diseases, to 27 million children annually, the largest birth cohort in the world. IPV has been introduced in six states from 30 Nov 2015 for provide double protection against Polio.
B P Sharma, Secretary (HFW) said that introduction of Rotavirus Vaccine will be able to reduce out of pocket expenditure in addition to saving hundreds of lives. He stated that this is a very cost effective measure. Sharma also informed that PCV is also on the anvil. “We also have to improve health facilities in the states to prevent neonatal deaths by 2030 to achieve SDGs,” he said.