Tamil Nadu is all set to launch its own study to estimate the extent of immunisation coverage in the State.

“Since the 2008 reversal of the immunisation policy, wherein the parents have to bring children to the institutions for vaccination, there continues to be a debate about the efficacy of this system,” says V.K. Subburaj, Principal Secretary, Health.

After the death of four children following a routine measles immunisation in May 2008, the State decided to suspend its community outreach for vaccination, resorting to outreach only in special circumstances. This triggered a debate that immunisation coverage had dropped in the State, compromising herd immunity.

“We are getting a lot of feedback urging us to get back to the community model. However, we need to know for sure whether this is the right course of action. If coverage is going down, we need to address it. While there have been a couple of studies, their results have not been consistent. So we have decided to do the study ourselves,” Mr. Subburaj explains.

The study will be undertaken at the community level and will factor comments from parents, K. Vanaja, joint director (immunisation), Directorate of Public Health, adds.

Retired government statisticians will guide the study and decide its methodology. The results are expected to be available in a couple of months.

Funding for the study, which aims at gauging the correct extent of immunisation coverage in Tamil Nadu, will come from the National Rural Health Mission.

“The results will indicate whether we need to go back into the community at all. Anecdotal reports of dropouts or delayed immunisation keep coming in, but it is essential to know how many children are being immunised for all the vaccines,” Dr. Vanaja says.

Currently, outreach programmes and mobile medical unit visits have been planned to ensure that children in hilly and unreachable areas are also covered.