The Delhi government’s decision to provide a free dose of the rotavirus vaccine to kids from August has come as a significant move in its public health policy and a big boon to child health in the national capital. The vaccine holds importance as it prevents diarrhoeal deaths among children.
Quoting sources, a report published in The Indian Express says that the central government has directed all states and union territories to ensure 100 percent availability of the vaccine nationally and to prepare for rollout by September. Eleven states already have introduced the vaccine, with Delhi now joining: the programme will start from August 7th across the state. The vaccine will be administered free of cost to all infants aged six, ten, and fourteen weeks old. In private hospitals, the same vaccine is worth Rs 3000 crore, meaning that the move will ease the financial burden of immunisation on impoverished families.
“The Government of India is working closely towards improving the infant and child mortality rate,” Dr Nutan Mundeja, director of the Directorate of Family Welfare in the Delhi government, told The Indian Express. “This is the second phase of the programme and many other states and union territories are now going to implement it in their respective health immunisation plan. We are going to introduce the vaccine in our immunisation programme from August 7 and the vaccines will be available for free to the public.”
In India, around 78,000 children die from Rotavirus diarrhoea annually, whereas nearly nine lakh are hospitalised with severe diarrhoeal infections. Another 32.7 lakh children visit hospitals as outpatients when afflicted with the virus. Diarrhoeal disease is the second most common cause of death of children under five years globally – as well as the most common cause of infectious disease outbreaks in India.
Rotavirus infection accounts for 39 percent of under-five diarrhoeal deaths globally. 22 percent of these deaths occur in India. Introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in the National Immunisation Programme is expected to be the most effective intervention in preventing the disease – with the potential to avert tens of thousands of deaths and lakhs of infections.