Aiming to slash the prevalence of violence-borne diarrhoea, the health ministry on Saturday launched the Rotavirus vaccine here, which will be available free of cost at public healthcare facilities, initially in four states.
Terming the occasion historic in the Indian health system, Health Minister J.P. Nadda said: “This is not a routine programme. This Rota virus launch sets the goal in the field of Indian health system. By launching this, we aim to immunise 27 million children across the country to prevent diseases caused by Rota virus.”
Rota is a highly contagious virus that infects majority of children before their first birthday. It is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea among children, leading to hospitalisation and death.
Nadda said that the government was aggressively working for the eradication of a slew of other diseases, including leprosy and TB.
“It is our duty to see that every child born in the country born is immunised against dreaded diseases,” he said.
The National Technical Advisory Group on vaccines had recommended the phased introduction of Rota virus vaccine in the country’s Universal Immunisation Programme.
In the first phase, Rota virus vaccine will be introduced in four States — Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. It will be provided at government health facilities to children from six weeks of age.
The vaccine was launched in Odisha as the state records high diarrhoea cases among children and deaths due to improper treatment.
“We are making appropriate investment, and this has been possible because we have an effective healthcare system with more and more facilities capable of providing the vaccine to the needy children,” said Health Ministry Additional Secretary C.K. Mishra.
Currently, 9.2 percent of Odisha’s total disease burdens consists of diarrhoea patients.
The infant mortality rate in Odisha is 51 per 1,000 live births, while the mortality rate of children under five years is 68 per 1,000 births, both far higher than in the other states where the Rota virus vaccine was launched in the first phase on Saturday.
The diarrhoea burden due to Rota virus in Andhra Pradesh stands at eight percent while the figure in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh is 8.5 percent and 5.5 percent respectively.
Globally there are 453,000 child deaths due to Rota virus every year. In India, Rota Virus diarrhoea causes about 78,000 deaths and about 8.7 lakh hospitalisations each year. Additionally, 32.7 lakh children under five years of age are treated as outpatients.