The Centre today introduced a new vaccine in its immunisation programme to protect children against diseases such as pneumonia in India, which accounts for 20 per cent of global deaths of children under five years of age.
Observing that pneumonia kills more children under five years of age in India than any other infectious disease, Health Minister J P Nadda said his government was committed to reducing morbidity and mortality in children, as he introduced the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the universal immunisation programme (UIP).
"The goal and commitment of our government is that no child should die in the country from vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs). We stand committed to reducing child deaths and providing a healthier future to our children," Nadda said while announcing the introduction of the vaccine in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.
Terming it as a "historic" moment in India's immunisation programme, Nadda said, "Strengthening routine immunisation is an essential investment in India's children and will ensure a healthy future of the country."
PCV protects children against severe forms of pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia and meningitis.
Currently, the vaccine is being rolled out for around 21 lakh children in Himachal Pradesh and parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the first phase.
This will be followed by introduction in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan next year, and eventually be expanded to the entire country in a phased manner.
Nadda said that under 'Mission Indradhanush', so far, more than 2.6 crore beneficiaries have been immunised.
"From 1 per cent annual increase in coverage of full immunisation, Mission Indradhanush has resulted in a 6.7 per cent annual expansion in the immunisation cover.
"The immunisation programme started with providing protection against six vaccine preventable diseases, it will now offer protection to our children from 12 diseases," Nadda said.
Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine- preventable deaths in children under five years of age globally and in India.
India accounts for nearly 20 per cent of global pneumonia deaths in this age group while in 2010, pneumococcal pneumonia accounted for approximately 16 per cent of all severe pneumonia cases and 30 per cent of pneumonia related deaths in children under-five years of age in India.
"Introducing PCV, therefore, will substantially reduce disease burden in the country," an official statement said.
Nadda further said that all these vaccines were available in the private sector for many years, not only in India but also across the world.
"While these vaccines in the private sector were accessible to only those who could afford them, by making them available under the UIP, the government is ensuring equitable access to those who need them the most, the underprivileged and underserved," he said.
Nadda said that pneumonia kills more children under five years of age in India than any other infectious disease and the pentavalent vaccine which was scaled up in all states under the UIP by 2015 protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) pneumonia.
"Now, the introduction of PCV in the UIP will reduce child deaths from pneumococcal pneumonia. It will also reduce the number of children being hospitalized for pneumonia, and therefore reduce the economic burden on the families and the health cost burden on the country," Nadda said.
Pointing out the importance of PCV, Himachal Pradesh Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur said that this vaccine will support efforts of the state government in further bringing down the child mortality.
To raise awareness about PCV, Nadda also unveiled communication material comprising television and radio spots, posters and banners, among others.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)