World Immunisation Week: 3.2 million children in India aren’t vaccinated, says WHO

Over 3.2 million Indian children aren’t vaccinated, says a World Health Organisation report on the occasion of World Immunisation Week between April 24 and April 30. As per the WHO report, the total number of children who don’t receive vaccinations to gain immunity to diseases is 19.4 million.
India, which leads the list of children who aren’t vaccinated, is followed by Nigeria and Pakistan. African nation Angola is 10th on the list.According to data provided by the government, 2.7 crore children are born in India every year. Approximately 18.3 lakhs children die before their fifth birthday. It is the low income families who lose the most children to disease. India records 5 lakh child deaths annually due to vaccine preventable diseases. Despite high childhood mortality rates due to vaccine preventable diseases, 30 percent of Indian children miss the benefits of full immunization every year. That is, an estimated 89 lakhs children across the country that either get only a few vaccines or no vaccines at all. One out of every 3 children in India does not receive all vaccines that are available under UIP. Five percent of children in urban areas and 8 percent in rural areas are unimmunised.Problems faced by the government and NGOs
While the government and NGOs are working to reduce the infant mortality rate, the biggest problem they face is the migratory population in rural and urban India. While census and family details are recorded, there are chances that the family may have moved from one locality to another. This is commonplace in urban India, and it hampers with records and the overall immunisation process. Secondly, as per data, from Indhradhanush, an organisation set up by the health ministry in 2014 to immunise children under the age of 2, as well as pregnant women, 28.2% of parents who did not opt for vaccination, felt that there was no need for it. 26.3% did not know of the vaccine, while 10.8% did not know where to go. Another 9% felt that the time wasn’t convenient, while 8.1% feared side-effects of vaccinations. 3% received wrong advice, while 1.2% couldn’t afford it.
Other problems are fake news stories that are circulated through mediums such as WhatsApp. According to a report in Scroll, a WhatsApp audio message discouraging parents from letting their children be vaccinated went viral in some Tamil Nadu and Karnataka communities. The message falsely claimed that the vaccine is intended to make children from minority communities impotent.
This isn’t just an Indian problem. A number of Americans have opted out of vaccinating their children, thanks to rumours that vaccinations cause autism. This rumour has been dispelled by several scientists, but parents, worried that their children will be affected, have backed out.
The Global Vaccine Action Plan
The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) is a roadmap to prevent millions of deaths through more equitable access to vaccines. Countries are aiming to achieve vaccination coverage of at least 90% nationally and at least 80% in every district by 2020. While the GVAP should accelerate control of all vaccine-preventable diseases, polio eradication is set as the first milestone. It also aims to spur research and development for the next generation of vaccines.
A paper published by the Indian Paediatric Association adds that while the last couple of decades have seen an increase in vaccine production, they are only accessible to those who can afford them. “The Government has introduced some of the newer vaccines in all states in a phased manner. Expanding coverage with these vaccines and introducing new vaccines which are cost effective in the Indian scenario are required,” they said.
While presenting the budget this year, Finance Miniser Arun Jaitley said that the government has plans of eliminating filariasis by 2017, leprosy by 2018, measels by 2020 and TB by 2025. A few months earlier, the immunisation division of Union Health Ministry had projected that the government’s immunisation budget will increase to Rs 9,451 crore in 2017. It was Rs 4,570 crore in 2013, based on the vaccines’ cost and related expenditures.
The health ministry received an increase of nearly Rs 10,000 crore in the budget for fiscal 2017-18, which shows the government’s initiative to manage the health sector, but given the magnitude of health in India, that amount will just be enough to tackle a fraction of what India needs to better its health scenario.
As for immunising every infant, while we have our hearts in the right place, it’s still difficult to determine whether we’re on the right track.

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