NEW DELHI, India , 9 November 2010 – The Government of India today launched the second dose of measles vaccination in the states of Assam (Morigaon district) and Arunachal Pradesh (East Siang district). The drive is the first in a year long public health initiative, supported by UNICEF and WHO, targeting 134 million children in 14 high risk states to prevent an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 child deaths annually.
“Measles is among the world’s most contagious diseases and one of the leading causes of death among children,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF India Representative. “The second dose of measles vaccination drive will make sure that children who were not reached will be protected from this deadly disease.”
Children, if not vaccinated, are at risk of the disease and its severe health complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea and encephalitis. Globally, an estimated 400 children die from measles every day. Three out of the four children, who died from measles in 2008, were from India.
In November 2008, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization, the principal advisory body to World Health Organization (WHO), recommended all children should receive two doses of measles vaccination.
As part of the Indian national immunisation strategy, fourteen states were identified by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunsiation (NTAGI) as having less than eighty per cent coverage and were thus advised to introduce a measles catch-up drive for children between the ages of nine months to ten years.
In the rest of the country, the second dose of measles vaccination will be given as part of the Routine Immunisation (RI) programme.
“The Government recognises the importance of vaccinating every child. Assam has taken the lead to launch this immunisation drive, giving a second chance to vulnerable children and to protect the population against measles” said Dr.J.B Ekka, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, Government of Assam.