This year for World Immunization Week (April 24-30) experts from West Bengal branch of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) came in with full support for national immunization efforts to save the lives of India’s children under five. The country’s goal is to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births which is now around 28 per 1000 and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births (now around 50 per 1000) by 2030, so that India can meet its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Pneumonia and diarrhea are the country’s leading killer infectious diseases that claim the most number of lives of children under the age of five. The IAP experts cited data from the International Vaccine Access Center’s (IVAC’s) 2017 Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report, which states that India could prevent over 90,000 child deaths and save over 1 billion USD each year in economic benefits, by scaling up coverage of immunization programs against pneumonia and diarrhea.
Dr, Arun Mangolik, President, West Bengal Academy of Pediatrics said, “Immunization is the most powerful tool at our disposal to prevent childhood mortality. Through sustained and intensified vaccination programs, we have successfully rid the world of deadly diseases such as small pox and polio. We must now push for rapid scaling up of efforts to achieve full immunization coverage to reduce the number of young lives lost to vaccine-preventable diseases.”
India’s Universal Immunization Program (UIP) is amongst the world’s largest public health programs that targets 2.7 crore newborns every year with vaccines that are free of cost. DR. Shyam Kookreja, Chair Person, Indian Academy of Pediatrics Infectious Diseases, has said that It includes vaccines against leading preventable childhood disease such as polio, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, rotavirus diarrhea and pneumonia.In 2014, government launched Mission Indradhanush, followed by Intensified Mission Indradhanush in 2017 to reach out to all partially vaccinated and unvaccinated children and pregnant women in select districts and urban cities in India. According to evaluated data from the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS-4) in 2014-2015, full immunization coverage was 62% in India. Nonetheless, the current figures are likely higher as a result of the ongoing vaccination programs.
Now the objective is to rapidly build immunization coverage beyond 90% by December 2018. Commenting on the increased focus on immunization, Dr. Pallab Chattopadhyay, Secretary WB IAP, has informed, “The government’s ongoing efforts to introduce newer vaccines in the UIP will help to prevent leading infections contributing to childhood mortality. I strongly believe that the availability and inclusion of newer vaccines such as the broad coverage pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) will help India meet the United Nation’s sustainable development goals to reduce under-5mortalityby2030.”
DR. Joydeep Choudhury is also present to the event and said that according to the World Health Organization, immunization prevents about 2 to 3 million deaths a year and has helped to control several life-threatening diseases and saved millions of lives. Experts from the IAP remain committed to drive more awareness about the role of immunization to reduce childhood mortality in the country.