NEW DELHI, 29 April: To create awareness on the urgency to vaccinate every eligible child and intensify efforts to improve RI coverage, the Government of India has launched Special Immunization Weeks. Four weeks, with one week each in the months of April, June, July and August will be used to hold special immunization sessions in high-risk areas across the country.
Each year full immunization prevents approximately 4 lakh under-five deaths from vaccine preventable diseases in India. But close to 75 lakh children every year miss the benefits of childhood vaccinations. A majority of those missing the opportunity are from among underserved and marginalized populations. Being unvaccinated keeps them at highest risk of catching life-threatening childhood diseases. Globally, every fifth child is unimmunized.
Picture: (From Left-to-Right) Dr. Rakesh Kumar-Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Anuradha Gupta-NHRM, Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative in India at the launch of new branding communication on Routine Immunization during the special immunization week.
“The Special Immunization Week is an opportunity to reinforce India’s Call to Action for child survival and development,” said Anuradha Gupta, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, while launching a new communication campaign in the presence of media, development partners, and health officials at the India Habitat Centre.
The new communication campaign comprises a new RI logo, TV spot, radio spot and posters. The media event, organized in collaboration with UNICEF, was part of the first Special Immunization Week (April 24-30) awareness initiative.
“The new RI logo and other communication material will promote consistent messaging to raise awareness on the urgency of reaching every child with life-saving immunization,” added Anuradha Gupta. She encouraged her state counterparts and development partners to focus on ensuring that vaccines that are provided free of cost under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) reach every last child in the country.
Year 2012-13 was declared as “Year of Intensification of Routine Immunization.” Intensification efforts saw the expansion of Pentavalent vaccine to six more states in India after successful introduction in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“Pentavalent vaccine expansion is a significant step in India’s Call to Action to renew its commitment to child survival and development by strengthening key strategic public health interventions. Pentavalent protects children from Hib pneumonia and meningitis in addition to protection from diphtheria, pertussis, teanus and Hepatisitis B.,” said Dr Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary, RCH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Emphasizing on UNICEF’s focus to promote equity in programme results, Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF India Representative said, “In India, inequity persists within and between states. There are geographical, rural-urban, poor-rich, gender and other related differences in vaccination coverage. Disparities need to be addressed to reach every last child. The Special Immunization Week is an opportunity for all of us to renew focus on ensuring equity in immunization coverage.”
The Special Immunization Week lays sufficient importance on generating awareness about immunization and to reach marginalized populations in brick kilns, urban slums and other hard-to-reach areas. Engagement with media and other key stakeholders have been planned and will be continued in the following weeks.
NOTE TO EDITORS
Special Immunization Week is observed each year in late April to promote the use of life-saving vaccines, one of the world’s most potent tools to immunize children against killer diseases. Concerted efforts to immunize children have reduced or eliminated the incidence of devastating illnesses:
In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF, USAID and other partners launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival. In February 2013, Government of India launched a Call to Action on Child Survival and Development in Tamil Nadu, renewing the promise towards further reducing Under 5 mortality in India. The Summit also arrived at a set of agreed actions that will sustain the momentum and promote accountability in India’s journey towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals related to maternal and child mortality.
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