India has decided to introduce pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). Health minister J P Nadda announced this on Saturday at a function in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. PCV protects children against severe forms of pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia and meningitis. In the first phase, the vaccine is being rolled out to approximately 21 lakh children in Himachal Pradesh and parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This will be followed by introduction in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan next year and eventually be expanded to the country in a phased manner.
“Pneumonia kills more children under five years of age in India than any other infectious disease. The pentavalent vaccine, which was scaled up in all states under the UIP by 2015, protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) pneumonia. Now, the introduction of PCV in the UIP will reduce child deaths from pneumococcal pneumonia. It will also reduce the number of children being hospitalised for pneumonia, and therefore reduce the economic burden on the families and the health cost burden on the country,” Nadda said.
Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children under five years globally and in India. India accounts for nearly 20 per cent of global pneumonia deaths in this age group. In 2010, pneumococcal pneumonia accounted for approximately 16 per cent of all severe pneumonia cases and 30 per cent of pneumonia-related deaths in children under five years in India. Introducing PCV, therefore, will substantially reduce the disease burden in the country.
Nadda added that all these vaccines were available in the private sector for many years, not only in India but also across the world. “While these vaccines in the private sector were accessible to only those who could afford them, by making them available under the UIP, the government is ensuring equitable access to those who need them the most, the underprivileged and underserved,” the minister said.