The Union Health Ministry, in a bid to cut deaths from diarrhoeal disease, will provide the rotavirus vaccine to every child under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
Acute diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of infectious disease outbreaks in India and is the second most common cause of death among children under five years worldwide. Rotavirus is a major driver behind this, with between 90,000 and 153,000 child deaths due to rotavirus infections every year. Worldwide, rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoeal disease.
The decision of the Union Health Ministry to expand rotavirus vaccination coverage to all children in the country comes as a major boon for paediatric health. A number of states have already announced rotavirus vaccination drives.
“[The] rotavirus vaccine along with proper sanitation, hand washing practices, ORS and zinc supplementation will go a long way in reducing the mortality and morbidity due to diarrhoea in children,” said Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. “We stand committed to reducing child deaths and provide a healthier future to our children and the expansion of Rotavirus [vaccination] under UIP is a step in that direction.”
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) recommended the addition of the rotavirus vaccine to the UIP. Under the Programme, three doses of the rotavirus vaccine are administered to children at the ages of one and a half, two and a half, and three and a half months.
The national expansion of the rotavirus vaccine comes as part of a long-standing Health Ministry initiative, with the phased introduction of the rotavirus vaccine beginning in 2016. Initially covering four states, it is now administered in 28 states and union territories (UTs). National coverage will mark a major step in the fight against diarrhoeal disease and broader efforts to improve child health indicators.