Rubella epidemic looms large in India

Mumbai: India could be facing the dangers of another viral epidemic, with 18 thousand children in the country affected by the rubella (German measles) infection, according to an official.
The death rate of children due to the disease is the highest, Additional Commissioner of Immunization in the Ministry of Health said at a UNICEF media workshop here.
The official said most of the victims are children under the age of five years and they are at risk of many diseases in the future.
“Rubella is a new challenge before us and the rate of its spread is very fast and the most dangerous thing is that most of the victims are children under 5 years of age,” Dhawan said.
However, the risks can be countered by greater vaccine access.
“Eighty percent of the vaccines used worldwide are produced in India. Therefore, instead of being afraid, we should make India free from this epidemic by providing the vaccines to as many children as possible. We have set a target to eliminate this epidemic from India in the next 14 months and we are confident that we will succeed in this and media personnel can play the most important role in this,” said Dhawan.
Dr. Ashish Chauhan, Special Health Specialist at UNICEF India, while presenting data on vaccination rates across the country, said that vaccine for measles and rubella was widely available in India several years ago and it was provided in collaboration with the state government and UNICEF.
However, during the Corona epidemic, the vaccine supply chain was disrupted and the focus shifted to the supply of the Corona vaccine, resulting in a drop in the rate of vaccine delivery.
Every year, 2.9 crore babies are born in the country, which poses a challenge.
Chauhan said overall 76 percent of children are being vaccinated in India. However, in 2020, the rate of vaccination for measles and rubella was 95 percent and the rate for other doses was 84 percent.
He said measles and rubella infections are spreading rapidly in states like Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana.
“So we have to control measles and rubella in the next one year. We have set a target of 100 percent vaccine coverage and we hope to be able to meet the target, courtesy thr current vaccine supply chain in India,” said Chauhan.
He said 94 percent of the children who have received the measles and rubella vaccine will recover immediately.
UNICEF’s Dr. Alka Gupta said the global body has led the immunization campaign in India and has been working at the front.
He said the purpose of the workshop, organised in collaboration with the ministry of health, was also to wage a war against fake news so that correct information about health can be found.

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