The Maharashtra government, Sunday, launched the ambitious pentavalent vaccination programme across the state to provide infants with five vaccinations in one dose for Hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and haemophilus influenzae. About 33 per cent children who have still not been immunized in the state under its public healthcare programme are set to benefit by the vaccine’s launch. The vaccine was launched in Osmanabad, with other districts to soon follow suit.
Additionally, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has approved launch of five other vaccines, measles rubella for treating measles, Japanese Encephalitis (in certain districts), Rotavirus for diarrheoa, Inactivated Polio Virus (IPV) for polio, and pneumococcal for pneumonia infection, by next year in its Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).
The new vaccines comes as a part of intensive immunization drive across India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to provide total immunization to over 90 per cent infants by 2020. While IPV is set to launch on November 30 this year, rotavirus will be rolled out by March next year followed by the three remaining vaccines.
According to data gathered by state public health department, of the 11 crore population in Maharashtra, 12 per cent are children aged less than 5 years. So far, 66.8 per cent children have been screened and treated for several diseases, however, a door-to-door survey found that in 10 districts – Dhule, Nanded, Beed, Hingoli, Jalgaon, Thane, Palghar, Nashik, Nandurbar, and Gadchiroli – there were several children who still required immunisation.
According to Dr Pradeep Haldar, deputy commissioner at MoHFW, while initial funding came from international organization Gavi, the procurement would soon be divided between central and state government in a 60:40 ratio. The pentavalent vaccine was first launched in 2011 in Kerela and Tamil Nadu and later extended to six other states. In 2014, 12 other states were added. With Maharashtra joining the existing states, only Uttar Pradesh remains to provide the vaccine.
The vaccine will help a child receive one instead of five different vaccines and will encourage greater participation as mothers will not have to bring their children for vaccination every time a camp is put up for a particular disease.
Discussing the need to provide hepatits B vaccine in rural areas at an awareness program on Monday, Union Health minister J P Nadda said that three per cent of Indian population has the virus from birth. “In India, 2.6 crore children are born every year of which 70 lakh are partially immunized, but 20 lakh receive no immunization,” Nadda said. In next three years, the central government will attempt to cover the entire infant population, he added.
According to Dr Jayant Barve, gastroenterologist, the risk of a new born getting the virus from his infected mother is 90 per cent. “If three hepatitis vaccine doses are given within six months of birth, there is 100 per cent efficacy of treating the disease,” he said.
The Maharashtra government is also set to start Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) in all rural hospitals in the next three months in an attempt to reduce instances of HIV or Hepatitis virus transmission through blood transfusion. NAT has an accuracy in testing the presence of a virus in a smaller window period than the existing ELISA test which will assure the blood is safer for transfusion.