As many as 3.37 crore children in the age group of nine months to 15 years in the state will be administered the measles-rubella vaccine over six weeks, as part of an immunisation programme by the Centre. The campaign is part of a pledge by India and 10 other South East Asia region-member countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which have resolved to eliminate measles and control rubella/congenital rubella syndrome by 2020. To reach this goal, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has initiated the measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in a phased manner across the country. The campaign aims to cover approximately 41 crore children.
Neither diseases has a cure, but both can be prevented by taking the vaccine. The programme will start in Maharashtra from November 27, Dr Archana Patil, additional director of the State Family Welfare Bureau, told The Indian Express. “The aim is to build immunity for both measles and rubella diseases in the community… even those children, who have been vaccinated for measles by their pediatrician or at health centres, should take the measles-rubella vaccine during the campaign,” she said.
“This is a massive campaign and will involve more than one lakh schools — government-aided, unaided and private. Multiple stakeholders are involved in it,” added Patil.
Apart from the departments of health, women and child welfare and education, organisations such as Lions Clubs, the Indian Academy of Paediatrics and the Indian Medical Association are also involved to achieve maximum coverage during the campaign.
Every year in India, nearly 2.7 million children get infected with measles. Those who survive suffer from serious complications including diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Rubella transmission is also highly prevalent across India, and it may lead to spontaneous abortion, stillbirth and irreversible birth defects such as life-long disabilities.
Every year, over 40,000 children are born with birth defects caused by Congenital Rubella Syndrome.
After health experts saw that sometimes vaccinated children were also contracting the disease, an additional dose was introduced to provide additional protection. The vaccine being given in the MR campaign is produced in India and is approved by the WHO.
As is the case with other injectable vaccines, there could be mild pain and redness at the injection site, low-grade fever, rash and muscle aches, which subsides on its own. The vaccine is not known to cause any other adverse effect, said Patil.