In order to protect children from pneumonia and a host of other diseases, the Union ministry of health and family welfare is set to introduce the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) in the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) — a large scale, free of cost vaccination initiative — across three states including Uttar Pradesh.
In UP, PCV will be launched in its six most affected districts this year, including Balrampur, Bahraich, Lakhimpur Kheri, Sitapur, Sidharth Nagar and Shravasti. Alok Kumar, mission director of the National Health Mission, said that the government will make the vaccine available to all children free of cost. Earlier, it was available only in the private sector in India.
“Three doses of the vaccine are important for the child, given at the age of 6 weeks, 14 weeks and a booster at 9 months…PCV will initially be available in six districts in the state. Because of high cost and less availability of the vaccine, the plan is to add six new districts to the programme every year,” said Dr Neena Gupta, director general of the state family welfare department.
Speaking at a media workshop on the introduction of PCV, Dr Bhrigu Kapuria, immunization specialist, UNICEF, said that nearly 100 children die of pneumonia every hour across the world.
“India is responsible for 20 per cent of all pneumonia deaths, which is nearly 3.5 lakh. Uttar Pradesh is at the top of the list in terms of deaths in India,” he added.
“PCV is the most safe and effective method of protection against pneumococcal pneumonia. The market value of the total dose of the vaccine is around Rs 9,000 – 10,000 collectively, but the government, realising the seriousness of the problem, is making it free of cost,” said Dr Kapuria.
Other than Uttar Pradesh, the vaccine will also be introduced in Bihar and Himanchal Pradesh this year. Launched in 1985 in a phased manner, the Vaccination Schedule under the UIP include vaccines for polio, hepatitis, measles, tetanus and many other diseases, given to the child in the first year of life.