To bring up proportion of fully immunised children to 100 %

The Health Department will kick off an intensive immunisation campaign across districts this week to bring up the proportion of fully immunised children to one hundred per cent in the State.

The campaign is being launched on Monday in Malappuram, which has been consistently lagging behind in all immunisation and related activities and has the highest proportion of unimmunised and partially immunised children. Malappuram was also the district which reported the maximum number of vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria this year

The Health Department has timed this campaign to conclude with World Immunisation Day on November 10.

“Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to bring up our proportion of fully immunised children above 81-82 per cent. The anti-vaccination lobby’s negative campaigns aside, a lot many parents also do not ensure that their children complete the immunisation schedule on time,” Additional Director of Health Services (FW) N. Sreedhar said.

The proportion of fully immunised children in the State was put at 75.3 per cent by the National Family Health Survey (2005-06). The District-level Health Survey (2007-08) put it at 79.5 per cent, while Unicef’s Coverage Evaluation Survey (2009) put the figure at 81.5 per cent.

According to the Health Department’s figures, the number of unimmunised children in the State at present is 7,457. Of this, 6,089 children are from Malappuram. When considering the number of partially immunised children also, 27,054 of the 39,240 such children are from Malappuram district. The total number of children in the 0-6 years age group in Malappuram district is 55,2771.

“While the campaign will be taken up across the State, it is quite evident why we have to focus all our energies in this district. We have selected 15 under-served blocks, where we have deployed health workers to bring children to immunisation booths. We are targeting 35,000 children below the age of 10 years. Once we bring the total immunisation rate in the district up to the State average, we will launch a house- to- house survey to ascertain the efficacy of the campaign,” G. Sunilkumar, Deputy Director (FW), who is in charge of the campaign, said.

Accredited Social Health Activists are being paid Rs.50, plus transportation charges for every child they manage to bring to the immunisation booths. The department has roped in the support of religious and spiritual leaders in the district for the immunisation campaign, in an attempt to counter the anti-vaccination lobby’s propaganda against immunisation.

As part of the campaign, the department is also taking up IEC (Information, Education, Communication) activities to promote safe storage and proper handling of vaccines.

Improper storage and lack of effective cold chain maintenance can make many vaccines impotent - one of the reasons why vaccination in the private sector is not entirely reliable, officials said.