To enhance public trust in the country's massive programme

India has taken major steps to improve surveillance and case management for Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI), Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Tuesday. It had also joined the global post-marketing surveillance network for new vaccines, with Maharashtra as the participating State.

The monitoring mechanism for AEFI was strengthened and new reporting guidelines were published and widely disseminated. “We are now closely monitoring AEFI cases to enhance public confidence in our immunisation programme.”

Mr Azad was addressing a high-level ministerial meeting of the South East Asia Region of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on ‘Increasing and Sustaining Immunisation Coverage' here. “India strongly believes that vaccination is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions since it provides direct and effective protection against preventable morbidity and mortality. Therefore, we remain committed to increasing and sustaining quality immunisation coverage.”

India, where around 26 million children were born every year, was running one of the world's largest immunisation programmes, Mr. Azad said. However, the programme, with its scale and size, was full of challenges.

Pentavalent vaccine

The Ministry was in the process of introducing Pentavalent vaccine containing Hib, initially in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and would scale it up subsequently. Eleven centres across the country were identified for laboratory-supported surveillance for vaccine-preventable diseases with special reference to potential vaccines in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“In a very recent initiative, we have introduced name & telephone-based tracking of pregnant mothers and children through a web-enabled system. The initiative intends to make sure that all pregnant mothers and children receive full continuum of care, including complete vaccination. This system will enable us to track each and every child and monitor provision of timely immunisation services, thereby verifying and improving service outreach throughout the country,” Mr. Azad said.

Another major step was the framing of the National Vaccine Policy. “This policy will now guide the immunisation programme in achieving its goals and objectives,” he said.

Health Ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Nepal are attending the conference. The WHO has declared 2012 ‘Year of Intensification for Routine Immunisation in the South East Asia Region.'