India is committed to the goal of measles elimination and control of Rubella/ congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by 2020. To achieve this goal, this campaign is being launched in the country covering all the children of 9 months to below 15 years of age group.
Measles –Rubella (MR) campaign in the country has been launched in a phased manner from Feb 2017 onwards. It is expected to cover around 41 crore children in the next two years across the country.
All children aged between 9 months and less than 15 years will be given a single shot of Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination irrespective of their previous Measles/Rubella vaccination status or MMR vaccination or Measles/Rubella disease status. MR vaccine will be provided free-of-cost across the states from session sites at schools as well as health facilities and outreach session sites.
The vaccine is a safe & effective WHO Prequalified vaccine; also it is with Auto-Disable one time usable syringe i.e. One new syringe for every child is used in the campaign and Health department across India is using Auto Disabled syringes in immunization programme since 2005.
Measles is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children. It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Measles can make a child vulnerable to life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea and brain infection. India accounts for a significant number of deaths from measles.
Rubella is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing congenital Rubella syndrome (CRS), which is a cause of public health concern.
CRS is characterized by congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular, and society in general.
Till date MR vaccination campaign completed in 20 states & UTs of India, 6 states & UTs continuing the campaign. A total of 11.85 crore (118.5 million) children have been safely vaccinated in 26 states and union territories. In Assam, till date we have successfully vaccinated more than 60 lakh children.
Assam has a wonderful eVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network) mechanism since November 2016 to ensure quality management of vaccines. This system gives real-time monitoring of cold chain temperatures up to the primary health centre level ensured that vaccines are stored in recommended temperature at all times in ILR ( Ice lined refrigerator) as per Government of India guidelines with recommended temperature of 2-8 degree Celsius.
Above 95% population immunity essential to stop endemic measles and rubella virus circulation i.e. why it is important that all the eligible children get vaccinated during this campaign in spite of their previous vaccination of MR/MMR vaccines.
Development partners like WHO, UNICEF & UNDP are also giving a great support to the government of Assam in achieving 100% coverage of children.
Unfortunately in some areas of Assam rumours have been circulated by miscreants that MR Vaccine causes infertility and this vaccination drive is only targeting to particular section of the society. Rumours are also doing the rounds that this vaccine causes various types of new diseases. It is to be mentioned that similar rumours were also circulated last year during the drive of Japanese encephalitis vaccination.
Therefore, it is requested that all the parents come forward to extend their full support to the health department in getting the children vaccinated in this campaign and make India free from measles and congenital rubella syndromes.
Dr Ilias Ali is a professor of surgery at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org