J&K earns top spot in nationwide immunization coverage
Post by M Peerzada on Monday, August 28, 2023
Srinagar, Aug 27: In a remarkable feat that reflects visionary leadership and strategic prowess, Jammu and Kashmir has secured the coveted top spot for immunization coverage in the country for the 2022-2023.
Director Family Welfare, Maternal and Child Health, and Immunization J&K, Dr Tabasum Jabeen, emphasised the importance of this achievement in safeguarding children from vaccine-preventable diseases. She highlighted that immunisations have played a crucial role in saving children's lives from diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, and pneumonia. With proper vaccination, these diseases can be prevented effectively.
Officials said the success in improved vaccination coverage has led to a decline in infant mortality, neonatal mortality, and under-5 mortality rates in Jammu and Kashmir and is expected to positively impact life expectancy and overall child health.
Dr Jabeen stressed the need for ongoing advocacy to educate people about the significance of vaccination and to ensure that all children receive the necessary vaccines in addition to improved vaccination.
“J&K Family Welfare Department is doing a commendable job and has excelled in other indicators like decrease in TFR, improved institutional deliveries and in addressing the unmet needs,” she said and emphasised on to continue with the good work in future also. While talking to former Director General Health and Family Welfare J&K, Dr Saleem Ur Rehman who was in charge of the department during this period said, the immunisation landscape of J&K has witnessed a transformation that stands as a model for the entire nation.
“Fuelled by a commitment to improving healthcare outcomes we adopted a multi-pronged approach that encompassed every aspect of the immunization process,” he said. At the grassroots level, the department initiated a rigorous gap analysis that identified areas needing urgent attention. This data-driven approach ensured that resources were channelled where they were most needed, thereby maximizing the impact of immunization efforts.
“The micro-planning at Deputy Chief Medical Officer and District immunization officers levels, ensured the availability of vaccines, maintaining functional cold chains, and employing solar refrigerators in areas with electricity challenges,” he said.
Notably, the National Cold Chain Management Information System was also renewed and an alternate vaccine delivery system was employed when needed. “The implementation of micro-planning, which involved meticulous coordination with local healthcare centres and stakeholders, resulted in efficient vaccine distribution and administration,” he said.
Rehman said the orchestrated macro planning at the directorate level ensuring a seamless flow of resources, vaccines and equipment across the entire UT. The department navigated logistical challenges, guaranteeing the availability of vaccines and maintaining an unbroken supply chain.
“Training and development also emerged as cornerstones of our strategy. We emphasized on continuous training of staff, equipping them with the latest knowledge and skills to deliver immunization services effectively. Regular monitoring and evaluation of staff performance were put in place to maintain the highest standards of service delivery,” he said.
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the focus on routine immunization was not compromised. The Department of Family Welfare continued to prioritize routine vaccination efforts alongside Covid-19 vaccination initiatives.
Dr Rehman said that though Covid-19 vaccination was a huge challenge but that did not deter the focus on routine immunization as they were aware of the consequences if they would lower the guard on routine immunization.
Pertinently, J&K excelled in Covid vaccination also and got appreciation from the Union Health Ministry for innovative ways on how it reached out to the target population. Notably, Wyun a village in Bandipora was the first village in the country to get fully vaccinated for Covid-19 above 18 years. “This validated the strategy where we focused on strengthening vaccination at sub-center level at the periphery, hence delivering at the doorsteps,” he said.
Dr Rehman also highlighted the affordability of vaccines, with costly vaccines such as the pneumococcal vaccine being made available to the public free of cost, which otherwise costs around Rs 6,000 per dose in the private sector, much beyond the reach of the common man. “An estimated 400,000 children under 5 die each year from pneumococcal disease, mostly due to pneumonia. Health experts had long believed that a vaccine targeting this bacterium could save millions of children's lives. We introduced PCV in the year 2021 and 661 cold chain points are active to ensure vaccine availability and safety of vaccine. “Likewise all the antigens which are very costly are being provided to the people of Jammu and Kashmir free of cost by the Govt. of India, which otherwise would have been very difficult for people to get their children vaccinated for the antigens. This accessibility further encouraged high vaccination coverage. Moreover a very reliable cold chain in the govt. sector was also a key factor in providing quality vaccination to the children,” he said.
Commenting on the achievement, Dr Rehman said, “Our success is a testament to the collaborative efforts of an exceptional team and the unwavering support of the community. This achievement reinforces the idea that a well-coordinated approach and dedicated personnel can create lasting change in public health.”
Jammu and Kashmir's achievement in immunization coverage is a significant step toward improving child health and preventing vaccine-preventable diseases and has set a new benchmark for the department, UT and the country.
“But this achievement was only possible due to continuous, unwavering support from Govt. of India, HLG, Chief Secretary and the Health Secretary in providing logistics, finances and human resource,” he said.