With the ambitious nationwide measles-rubella vaccination drive coming to a close this weekend, Maharashtra recorded 82 per cent coverage of children, with six deaths reported during the immunisation process and at least 340 cases of adverse reactions to the vaccination.
A state-appointed committee on ‘adverse effects following immunisation’ (AEFI) has, however, said all six deaths were unrelated to the vaccine. Diarrohea, viral hepatitis and pulmonary aspiration were found to be among the causes of deaths in these cases. For instance, a one-year-old baby vaccinated on December 15 in Buldhana died three days later.
The case was investigated by the district AEFI committee comprising a paediatrician, forensic experts, intensive medicine specialists and physicians. Dr Archana Patil, joint director at the Directorate of Health Services, said the child had diarrhoea and vomiting after eating kheer following immunisation.
Dr D N Patil, in-charge of the measles-rubella vaccination drive, said, “The six deaths have occurred during the drive, but no evidence has been found to suggest they were caused by vaccination. If there is an issue in one batch of vaccines, all children administered with it must suffer complications. That has not been reported in any of these deaths.”
In addition, 340 cases of minor adverse reactions, such as nausea, fever, vomiting and anxiety were recorded among children aged nine months to 15 years. Of 3.38 crore children targeted, 82 per cent were covered by January 14. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare aimed to cover 95 per cent of the children population in India in this campaign. India is part of South-East Asian countries under the World Health Organisation that aim to eliminate measles-rubella by 2020.
In Maharashtra, Buldhana, Jalna, Raigad and Gondia had less than 80 per cent coverage. Low coverage was also recorded in areas including Bhiwandi, Malegaon, Mumbai metropolitan region, Aurangabad and Parbhani. Last week, the state chief secretary undertook a review of measles-rubella vaccination progress with all districts.
The nationwide exercise, spread over six weeks, aims to attain ‘herd immunity’, a concept in which everyone is immunised to significantly reduce the prevalence of infection. Measles, distinctive with skin rashes, is a contagious viral disease that can spread through coughing and sneezing.