Philanthropist and software titan Bill Gates on Wednesday said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were in talks with the Government of India to introduce new vaccines to bolster the rate of immunisation in the National Rural Health Mission programme.

In Bihar to visit community health workers and State officials to witness first-hand the launch of a five-year $80 million grant, Mr. Gates talked of discussions with the Government of India to introduce new vaccines to combat measles, diarrhea and pneumonia, specifically mentioning the introduction of the Pentavalent five-in-one vaccine in the Indian health scene.

Speaking at a press conference later in the day, Mr. Gates said the pilot tests of the vaccine (Pentavalent) were to be introduced in two States and would help in curing hundreds of thousands of children in the country.

“We are working with low-cost manufacturers to introduce these vaccines, which included a second dose of measles and some pneumococcal vaccines to combat pneumonia,” Mr. Gates said.

Lauding the efforts of Bihar's Health Ministry to expedite the immunisation rate, Ms. Gates, in her maiden visit to the State, appreciated the rate of immunisation coverage over the last six years.

“The rate has gone up to an impressive 65 per cent since 2005…we could not be more impressed,” she said.

The Bihar government had signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Foundation in May, 2010 with the aim of developing, testing and scaling innovative solutions to improve the health of families in the State.

The partnership project, christened “Ananya,” purports to assist the State government to meet its goal of reducing mortality rates of mothers, infants and children under the age of five by as much as 40 per cent by 2015, with services being focused on the 1000-day period between pregnancy and the child's first 24 months.

NGOs such as CARE, World Health Partners and the BBC World Service Trust will work with communities and individuals in Bihar to improve community and individual health standards. While CARE will focus on improving the quality and delivery of family health services, WHP will concentrate on establishing a sustainable State health network to combat diseases such as tuberculosis, diarrhea and kala-azar (Visceral Leishmaniasis).

RELATED NEWS

Bill Gates lauds Health Ministry March 23, 2011