EVEN AS civic authorities struggle to contain the spread of Covid-19, routine immunisation activities have suffered in the process. Childhood vaccinations have dropped with less than 50 per cent immunisation targets being met for April-May.
At birth, newborns are administered bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, oral polio vaccine (OPV 0), and hepatitis B vaccine. As against a target of 10,150 vaccinations for April-May, civic health officials were able to immunise 4,268 newborns with BCG vaccine while 4,578 were administered the polio dose at birth and 4,496 were vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Pentavalent vaccine provides protection to a child from five life-threatening diseases – diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and Hib. At six weeks, 2,052 infants were administered pentavalent-1 vaccine as against the estimated target of 10,150 for April-May, indicating that only 20 per cent immunisation targets were achieved.
Similarly, immunisation through other vaccines required to be administered to infants at six weeks since birth has also suffered. A total of 1,927 were administered inactivated polio vaccine (IPV-1) showing that only 19 per cent target was achieved, while the rotavirus vaccine was given to 1,903 infants at six weeks against the estimated target of 10,150. A total of 1,493 toddlers aged between nine and 11 months got the first dose of measles and rubella vaccine showing only 15 per cent target was met, as per data from the PMC’s Health Management Information System.
Civic officials said as against 70 dispensaries involved in routine immunisation activities, only 30 were functional while most doctors, nurses, and health workers were now engaged in managing Covid care centres. “The numbers, however, have started to pick up from June,” officials said.
Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) had issued guidelines on immunisation during the Covid-19 pandemic, encouraging continuation of such activities. While a lockdown was declared on March 22 and extended up to June, IAP, in its guidelines, stated that there was likely to be decreased demand for vaccination due to distancing requirements or community reluctance, said Dr Sanjay Bafna, president, IAP Pune unit.
Dr Shirish Kankariya, secretary, IAP Pune unit, also said there was a fair amount of anxiety and fear about Covid-19 among parents of newborns and, hence, they were reluctant to visit private clinics.
The IAP advisory committee on vaccines and immunisation practices has also pointed out in its guidelines that the likelihood of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), such as measles, may increase as a result of disruption of immunisation activities, even for brief periods. A modelling study by scientists at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, on the impact of suspending routine immunisation sessions to contain the spread of Covid-19 and further deaths in Africa, has shown that for each Covid-19 death prevented, there would be as many as 34 to 1,274 future deaths due to diseases, including measles, yellow fever, polio, meningitis, pneumonia, and diarrhoea.
Dr Umesh Vaidya, regional medical director of Cloud Nine Hospitals, said immunisation was a core health service and, as per general instructions for vaccination, there were clinic arrangements for separate entrance and exit. “We have, however, focused on home vaccination programme. After a thorough video consultation with parents of a newborn, vaccines are administered by our expert medical team at their doorstep,” Dr Vaidya said, adding that they had been able to vaccinate 20,000 infants across the country in the last three months.
Dr Amit Shah, Medical Officer (Immunisation), PMC, said there was a dip in number of vaccinations, as on an average, 5,000 infants were immunised on a monthly basis. “We are making an appeal to parents of newborns to visit dispensaries and, slowly, vaccinations are picking up pace,” Dr Shah said.
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