India behind Kenya and Uganda in immunisation, reveals WHO report

Namrata Devikar
Sunday, 15 July 2018

A WHO report released in July 2018 focuses on the 10 countries identified as the highest priority for childhood immunisation by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). These countries, including India, face the most severe immunisation challenges. They together account for over 70 per cent of children, who do not get a full course of basic vaccines.

Pune: According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, India ranks third after Kenya and Uganda, in the comparison of 10 low-income countries in terms of providing basic immunisation to children. Against the national average of 78.8, Maharashtra scores only 75.3 per cent coverage. Nagaland scores the least with 52.5 coverage while Puducherry has the maximum coverage of 96 per cent.

According to the report, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) immunisation coverage in India reached nearly four out of five among one-year-olds. This vaccine helps children younger than seven years develop immunity to three deadly diseases caused by bacteria diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis).

The report includes data regarding immunisation coverage from countries like Afghanistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Nigeria and Uganda complied in ‘Explorations of inequality: Childhood Immunization Report’.
The report states that the high burden of childhood mortality and morbidity in India reflects the poor quality of public health care in India.

With uneven progress between sub-national regions, and on the basis of socioeconomic status and gender. Speaking about the immunisation coverage in India with respect to the global level, Dr Abhijeet Vaidya, National President of Arogya Sena, said there are three aspects that should be focused upon to improve the numbers further.

“First is that the public health or government health apparatus does not reach the country’s interiors. As a result, coverage is low in many parts where tribal population resides. Secondly,  public awareness should be increased through education. And the third and the most important is the allocation of more funds towards health. We currently have less budget allocated towards such important issues. This also slows down the efforts of those working in these sectors,” said Vaidya.  

State-wise scenario
Though the national average of 78.8 per cent has scored well at the global level, the state-wise scenario seems grim. Out of 36 states and Union Territories (UT), 15 states are below the national average, including Maharashtra as well the Prime Minister’s home state, Gujarat.

While Maharashtra scores 75.3 per cent coverage in immunisation, Gujarat scores 72.8 per cent. The least coverage is in north eastern Nagaland. The seven sisters from the North East are below the national average. States with higher immunisation coverage are mostly from the southern parts. 
Speaking about the coverage in state, Dr Sanjay Bafna, a paediatrician from Jehangir Hospital said in states like Nagaland, accessibility may be a major issue.

“The possibility of having health services within reach is an issue. More than that there needs to be awareness among people. A lot of people think that administering polio vaccination is enough. However, there are around eight essential vaccinations that need to be given to children and the parents should be aware about them,” said Dr Bafna.

Speaking about the importance of immunisation, Bafna noted that these vaccinations save a child from deadly diseases. “Immunisation can save a child from mortality and morbidity. Also, if a large group of people are given the vaccine, then there is herd immunity, that is, less people further get affected with the same bacteria,” said Bafna.

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