Vaccination drive to cover around 38 lakh children
Nearly 38 lakh children aged between nine months and 15 years would be covered under a massive Measles-Rubella (MR) campaign which began in J&K on Monday.
According to officials, 80,023 children aged between nine months and 15 years were vaccinated on the first day of school activity and vaccination certificates were issued to all the beneficiaries.
Director Family Welfare MCH and Immunization, J&K, Dr Samir Mattoo launched the campaign from the Specially-able School for Deaf and Dumb at Rambagh.
District Developments Commissioners and ADCs launched the campaign in the districts in presence of Chief Medical Officers, Deputy Chief Medical Officers, DIOs and BMOs.
“Trained vaccinators have been pressed into service for the campaign. More than 25000 sessions have been planned for the activity,” Matoo said.
He said in the first phase, the school going children will be vaccinated in 29,382 schools throughout the State.
“A total of 11,914 ASHAs and 29,472 Anganwadi workers will mobilize children during the second phase of activity,” Mattoo said.
Health officials informed that vaccines and logistics received from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India had already been distributed to all the districts and blocks in advance.
They said sensitization training and other activities were carried out before the launch of campaign.
“In case of any adverse events, due care has been taken of and AEFI kits have been provided to all the vaccinators in the State,” they said.
MR Campaign was launched in all the districts of J&K except for Kathua and Doda due to the closure of schools ordered by respective Deputy Commissioners on account of inclement weather.
Health experts believe that measles disease breaks defensive mechanism among children making them susceptible to the illness, which is one of the major causes of mortality across the world.
State Immunization Officer J&K, Dr Qazi Haroon said they would cover all government and private schools as they had kept the target of 80 percent children for the first phase while the rest 20 percent would be covered by outreach and sweep sessions.
He said immunization was one of the most effective and cost-effective ways to protect children’s lives and their futures.
“Through full immunization coverage, we can make sure that the benefits of life-saving vaccines reach every child,” Dr Haroon said.
The campaign is aimed to achieve the goals of measles elimination and rubella and Congenital Rubella Control (CRS) by 2020.
He said the recently introduced MR campaign would be provided free in schools, health facilities and at outreach session sites to achieve the goals of the largest public health programme.
“Under the national campaign, this vaccine is to be administered as a single shot to children in the age group of 9 months and 15 years,” Dr Haroon said.
Health experts have observed that the maximum number of cases of measles and rubella in India were among children less than 15 years of age prompting them to cover the age group.
They said measles continues to be highly infectious and kills many infants and children.
Similarly, rubella, a mild self-limiting viral illness causes CRS during early pregnancy.
They said children who suffer from high fever or any other serious disease like unconsciousness, have fits, are admitted in hospitals, or are susceptible to serious allergies as a result of measles-rubella vaccination in the past should be excluded from vaccination.
“School-going children will be vaccinated at schools and non-school going children shall be covered through outreach activity in the community,” they said.
Head Department of Community Medicine, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, Dr Saleem Khan said the vaccine was one of the safest vaccines.
“It protects our children and future generation,” he said.
Reacting about complaints about a school in Handwara district where some children had allegedly fallen ill after the vaccine was administered to them, he said the children had immunization anxiety.
“It is a response occasionally shown by girls who see others getting vaccinated and can occur with any vaccine or injection,” Khan said and asked people to go for the vaccine.
Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) has advised parents to encourage children to go for vaccination without any fear.
“The vaccination will eliminate four diseases: Measles, Rubella, CRS and Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) from the State,” DAK President Dr Suhail Naik said.
He said MR immunization directly contributed to the reduction of under-5 child mortality.
“It will also prevent CRS, where a baby is born with mental retardation, cataract, and a hole in the heart,” Naik said.
The India-wide programme is a part of global efforts to reduce illness and deaths due to measles and rubella.