- India loses about 5 Lakh children under the age of two due to diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, each year.
- Immunization week is being observed from 24th to 30th April this year, with Ghaziabad,Uttar Pradesh reporting poor immunization figures.
- Only 60.7% of children aging 12 to 23 months in urban Ghaziabad are fully immunized, which means 39% of children are falling behind on their immunization schedules.
- There is a need to revisit immunization programs to identify where they are lacking and to make them more effective.
Ghaziabad, 26 April, 2018: About 47% urban children are still not completely vaccinated in Uttar Pradesh, reveals a recent study by National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The age of 12 to 23 months is considered as a critical period in a child’s development and immunity-building process and if notimmunized on time, the child can face severe health issues in life, say health experts.
Immunization rate in urban Uttar Pradesh is much lower than that reported by other regional surveys in India. Low socioeconomic status of the households, female illiteracy, lack of health awareness and gender inequality can be attributed as the determinants of low vaccination coverage in the state. Currently, vaccination is provided to protect children against 7 life-threatening diseases in India, which includeDiphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Tuberculosis, Measles and Hepatitis B.
“The timing of the vaccination plays a fundamental role in a child’s life. In order to ensure that the child develops immunity for a given disease at the correct age, it is essential to provide him vaccination during 12-23 months of age. Non-adherence to timely vaccination continues to be one of the leading reasons for high infant mortality rate in our state,” says Dr. Sanjay Sharma, Consultant- Pediatrician, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
Immunization is the process of fortifying a child’s immune system against attacks by foreign antigens. Vaccines contain the same antigens that cause diseasesbut they are either killed or weakened to the point that they don’t actually cause the disease.
However, the antigens are still strong enough to make the immune system produce antibodies that lead to immunity. In other words, vaccine is a safer substitute for a child’s first exposure to a disease. The child gets protection without having to get sick. Vaccination helpsthe child develop immunity without suffering from the actual diseases.
Within Uttar Pradesh, the state of Ghaziabad is even worse, withonly 60.7% of children aging 12 to 23 months in urban Ghaziabad are fully immunized. This essentially means more than 39% of children are falling behind on their immunization schedules. Lack of awareness and outreach seems to be the major factor for the situation.
“Today, medical science has enabledus to protect our child against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once claimed thousands of lives have been successfully eradicated and others are close to extinction, thanks to modern vaccines. Eradication of Polio is one of the best examples of the contribution of vaccinationin India. However, these dismal figures are indicative of our efforts not getting the desired results. The immunization programs need to be revisited to identify where they are lacking and to make them more effective”, Dr. Sanjay Sharma.
The foremost reasons for the low rate of immunization in India can be attributed to lack of awareness among the parents about the benefits of vaccination, fear of side-effects of vaccination,myths about adverse events following immunization and non-availability of vaccines or vaccinators at session sites,etc.
Immunization has proved to be the most cost-effective method to prevent fatal diseases and deaths. Data reveals that India loses about 5 Lakh children under the age of two due to diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines, each year.
With the immunization week being celebrated from 24th to 30th April this year, the focus is back on the existing programs and where efforts are lacking.
In addition to enhancing the infrastructure for providing better immunization services, efforts should also be made to address vulnerable households within urban settlements via community-based outreach programs.
Since lack of awareness and sociocultural beliefs play a major role in the decision-making of families in vaccinating their children, overcoming these social barriers by improving female literacy and addressing lack of awareness or motivation through professionally designed behavior change communication programs can go a long way in improving child health scenario in India.