Multiple states have launched vaccination drives against rotavirus infections, a significant driver of child mortality in India.
Rotavirus infections are the leading cause of severe diarrhoeal disease worldwide. Diarrhoeal disease is the second most common cause of death of children under five years old and represents the most common cause of infectious disease outbreaks in India. 78,000 Indian children lose their lives to rotavirus-caused diarrhoea every year. This includes 59,000 children under the age of two.
Among the states to have launched vaccination drives in recent weeks are Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and the union territory of Chandigarh. In addition, Delhi has announced a rotavirus vaccination programme will commence in the state beginning August 7th.
In Goa, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane stated that “resources that are available and experience will be utilised to create [the] best health care facilities and to strengthen and protect [the] health of every child from Goa.” He said that infants would be vaccinated free of charge in line with guidelines of administering doses at the ages of six, ten, and fourteen weeks. Rane added that fortification of the immunisation programme would further the legacy of the late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who died in March this year after battling pancreatic cancer.
In Maharashtra, Health Minister Eknath Shinde initiated a rotavirus vaccination campaign in the state expected to cover twenty lakh children. Vaccines will be dispensed in healthcare facilities at the taluka, district, and state level, with health workers across 34 districts and 27 municipal corporations being given training in addition to accredited social health activists (ASHAs), and Anganwadi sevikas (workers in rural childcare centres).
Chandigarh will begin dispensing rotavirus vaccines from July 31st, the UT’s Director of Health and Family Welfare Dr G. Dewan announced earlier this month. “The vaccine will be provided free of cost at all the health and wellness centres,” Dr Dewan elaborated. “The vaccine will be given along with routine vaccine on immunisation days of Wednesday and Saturday.” Rotavirus vaccination will be incorporated under the standard immunisation schedule operational in the UT.
Karnataka, meanwhile, intends to incorporate the vaccine into the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) by the third week of August. Training is underway at the district level for all medical personnel, with rollout of the vaccine being coordinated by task forces headed by district commissioner.
The statewide initiatives come as part of a broader national push for immunisation against rotavirus. The Centre has directed state government and union territory governments to ensure complete availability of the vaccine, to enable the rollout of a rotavirus vaccination campaign beginning in September. Twelve states, including those mentioned above, have followed suit. Further state-level vaccination campaigns will be needed to ensure 100 percent availability of and coverage and to prevent thousands of child deaths.