Part of a State-level initiative to prevent childhood disabilities
All adolescent girls and infants in the State will soon be vaccinated against rubella, or German measles.
The Departments of Health and Social Welfare are joining hands to launch the vaccination as part of a larger initiative to prevent childhood disabilities. Rubella is a mild contagious infection, but infants born to mothers exposed to the virus during the very early stages of pregnancy can be born with severe congenital deformities.
The Health Department will implement rubella vaccination in a campaign mode, targeting girls from classes VIII to XII. Alongside, the second dose of measles vaccine, currently administered to infants at 18 months as part of routine immunisation, will be replaced by the MMR (mumps-measles-rubella) vaccine, so that all children are protected against measles and rubella.
The programme is being implemented by utilising the funds provided by the Social Justice Department under its mega initiative, State Initiative on Disabilities (SID), to detect disabilities in children at an early stage for appropriate interventions.
The Kerala Social Security Mission is the nodal agency working with the Health Department to implement the vaccination initiative.
The strategy of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the elimination of measles and rubella says that all infants be administered the MMR vaccine, while special precaution be taken to ensure that all girls in the post-pubertal or marriageable age (who might not have received MMR vaccine in infancy) are protected by a dose of monovalent rubella vaccine.
The MMR vaccine, though widely administered to infants since 1985, is still not part of the Universal Immunisation Programme of the nation. However, Delhi, Sikkim, Puducherry and Goa have included the vaccine in their routine immunisation programme as a State-level initiative.
For a long time, paediatricians and public health activists in the State have been demanding the mandatory administration of the vaccine to infants to eliminate rubella.
The State will now implement the WHO’s two-pronged strategy.
“We are replacing the second dose of measles vaccine at 18 months under the routine immunisation, with the MMR vaccine, which will be the permanent strategy for the elimination of rubella. The monovalent rubella vaccination for adolescent girls will have to be continued by the State for the next 12 years at least, by which time, all infants currently being vaccinated will become adolescents,” P.K. Jameela, Director of Health Services, says.