Vaccine Programme Failing: Report
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09 June 2010
By Durgesh Nandan Jha
New Delhi, India
The government has failed to effectively implement its immunization programmes targeted at reducing child mortality. Of the 113 deaths due to diphtheria – a vaccine–preventable disease – in the country in 2009, 82 occurred in Delhi.
According to a report on the national health profile released by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, there has also been a staggering increase in cases of pertussis (whooping cough) from 75 in 2008 to 826 in 2009. Both diseases are covered under the government’s universal immunization programme for which DPT vaccine, among others, is given free at primary healthcare centres and in some cases, at homes.
According to the report which surveyed all the states and union territories, the number of cases of diphtheria also increased from 177 in 2008 to 340 in 2009. Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness which is common in children between 0–5 years. It is contagious and DPT vaccines need to be given in three doses to children to develop their immunity against the disease.
DPT vaccine is also given for immunization against pertussis or whooping cough. Despite the Delhi government’s tall claims of immunization services being available at about 650 primary–level healthcare units, colony and district hospitals, there has been a steep rise in cases of pertussis as well. Delhi reported 826 cases last year as against 75 in 2008. No death was reported. One polio death was reported in 2009.
The number of typhoid cases and deaths due to the disease have also increased. In 2008, 32 of the 19,340 children suffering from typhoid died in the city. In 2009, more than 40,000 cases were reported and 47 deaths took place. However, the government succeeded in controlling cases of measles and tetanus, which too are vaccine–preventable diseases.
“The vaccination programme is not being implemented properly in slums and rural areas. Delhi hospitals receive a number of patients whose parents may have migrated from other states and they may not be vaccinated. There may be more cases than what we have reported as many sectors don’t send the actual figures,” Ashok Kumar, director, Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI), said.
An RTI document available with TOI revealed that over 40% children did not get their DPT shots due to shortage of the vaccine. In 2008–09, of the 3,01,000 children meant to be vaccinated, only 1,31,829 got the DPT shots.
Health minister Kiran Walia conceded that the figures were alarmingly high. “I have asked my officers to gather details of the deaths and take immediate measures to ensure that children are vaccinated immediately.”