New Delhi: The Union health ministry will on Thursday launch the third phase of a vaccination campaign to cover an estimated 36 lakh children in 216 districts across India who have never received vaccines or remain partially immunised.
The campaign designed to immunise children against seven vaccine-preventable diseases - diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis-B - will focus on areas dogged by irregular or poor routine immunisation services, senior health ministry officials said yesterday.
India's government-funded universal immunisation programme, launched in the 1980s, is supposed to deliver vaccines against these diseases to all of the 2.6 crore babies born in the country each year. But health surveys suggest that only 65 per cent of children in India are fully immunised.
The campaign's third phase, supposed to run from April through July, includes 17 districts in five states that had not been covered in the first and second phases last year. Among them are Alipurduar, Bankura, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri in Bengal, and Bhojpur, Gopalganj, Nawada, Sawara and Supaul in Bihar.
"This campaign is part of our efforts to achieve over 90 per cent immunisation by 2019 or 2020," a health ministry official said.
During the first and second phases of the campaign conducted in April and October 2015, over 37 lakh children had been successfully immunised, the official said.
The immunisation drive is backed by an army of auxiliary nurse-midwives and accredited social health workers across rural areas who've been tasked to go door-to-door and find children who have not been appropriately immunised.
"Such efforts need micro-planning - and some districts need to strengthen their micro-plans, this is a niggling problem in some areas," the official said, adding that some states also need to intensify their efforts to increase awareness about immunisation among sections of the population.
Fifty-five of the 216 target districts are in Uttar Pradesh, while 19 are in Bihar. The two states make up nearly 50 per cent of the children who have been only partially immunised or not immunised at all.
Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have 61 of the 216 districts and account for 30 per cent of such children who need special vaccination drives for complete immunisation.
The Telegraph, 6 April, 2016, http://www.telegraphindia.com/1160406/jsp/nation/story_78630.jsp#.VwS973o1t_k