Immunisation is a building block of strong primary healthcare and universal health coverage. The report published by the WHO published on Monday, 16 July states that, last year registered highest immunisation in the world than in any other year.
When more children are being immunised worldwide than ever before; an estimated 19.9 million children under the age of one did not receive diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine.
Around 60% of these children live in 10 countries – Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.
Of the 19.9 million infants who are not fully vaccinated with DTP3, almost 8 million (40%) live in fragile or humanitarian settings, including countries affected by conflict. And about 5.6 million of them live in just three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – where access to routine immunisation services is critical to achieving and sustaining polio eradication.
The report also points out that coverage levels remain well short of the WHO recommended measles immunisation coverage of at least 95% to prevent outbreaks, avert preventable deaths and achieve regional elimination goals. Even in India, we are unable to achieve 100% immunisation target for measles.
Dr Jayant Navrange, senior Paediatrician from Pune, said, “India also accounts for a significant number of deaths from measles and according to the WHO in 2016 around 49,200 deaths were reported because of the same. It is coincidence that on Monday itself, the immunisation programme was launched in different states in India.”
It further mentions that newly available vaccines are being added as part of the life-saving vaccination package – such as those to protect against meningitis, malaria and even Ebola. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, and can cause cervical cancer, other types of cancer, and genital warts in both men and women. In 2017, the HPV vaccine was introduced in 80 countries.
On the other hand, vaccines to prevent against major killers of children such as rotavirus, a disease that causes severe childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia have been around for over a decade. But the use of rotavirus and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) is lagging behind. In 2017, global coverage was only 28% for rotavirus and 44% for PCV.
Dr Lalit Rawal, Paediatrician at Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune, said, “Rotavirus vaccine was recently launched in India, but we have not achieved 100% immunisation target. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are common in rural areas. We need to strongly advocate its immunisation.”
Monitoring data at subnational levels is critical to helping countries prioritise and tailor vaccination strategies and operational plans to address immunisation gaps and reach every person with life-saving vaccines.