Mobile vaccination vans, an officers’ WhatsApp group for daily monitoring and getting a local imam to be the voice of vaccination — Mission Indradhanush that recently earned rich praise in a Johns Hopkins report on global diarrhoea and pneumonia used all these and more to reach out to children left out of the routine immunisation exercise.
The numbers it notched up were impressive enough for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revise the 90 per cent coverage target deadline from 2020 to 2018 in a progress review meeting in May.
Four phases of Mission Indradhanush have been completed in which 2.55 crore children and 68.7 lakh pregnant women have been vaccinated across the country. Compare this with an annual birth cohort of 2.63 crore children and routine immunisation that covers less than 2 crore every year.
The mission was led by former health secretary C K Mishra, who has now moved to the environment ministry.
As the mission completes three years next month, the overall report card reads well, though the ministry is yet to quantify the actual change in vaccination coverage.
On October 27, a meeting was held for a Coverage Evaluation Survey 2018 to be conducted by UNICEF so that the achievements can be authentically estimated.
The only pan-India vaccination figure that the government currently has is from the National Family Health Survey IV that is based on 2015-16 estimations and puts the vaccination coverage at 62 per cent.
As per the report of the Integrated Childhood and Immunisation Survey (INCHIS) the first two phases of Mission Indradhanush led to an increase in full immunisation coverage by 6.7 per cent in one year as compared to 1 per cent annual increase in the past.
In a bid to make the gains lasting, the ministry recently launched the Intensified Mission Indradhanush — launched by Modi on October 8 from Vadnagar in Gujarat — under which the Centre is also providing resources to a state to ensure that the numbers do not slip back to starting levels.
“In MI (Mission Indradhanush), we were clear that states had to use existing resources but in IMI for which 121 districts have been identified, we are giving extra resources too. We have deployed mobile vans to access remote areas, arranged for TA/DAs for movement of health workers from one centre to another so that no centre lies unused and we have asked district magistrates to head the district task force meeting to fix accountability. There is a WhatsApp group of mission directors and state immunisation officers for daily updates and feedback,” a senior health ministry official said.
“Mission Indradhanush was launched on December 25, 2014, to plug the immunisation gaps with a goal of achieving 90 per cent immunisation. Cent per cent coverage targets are usually not set unless it is for a disease specific programme like polio because reaching the last 10% is usually a far more cost intensive exercise…,” the health official said.
A recent report on the progress of 15 countries with the highest number of children dying of pneumonia and diarrhoea compiled by International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health lauded India for the most progress because of Mission Indradhanush that “has vaccinated about 25 million children in over 500 districts. Along with the introduction and scale-up of new and underutilized vaccines in the UIP, MI has helped drive the increases in immunization coverage captured in India’s 2017 GAPPD (Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea) Score.”