Tamil Nadu

‘Need urgent focus on improving childhood immunisation’

Gagandeep Kang  

The dropping rates of childhood immunisation across the country will definitely have consequences, and how soon these deleterious effects come in will depend on the proportion of children immunised, and by the disease itself, said Gagandeep Kang, professor of the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, on Friday.

Already, outbreaks of diphtheria have surfaced, and it is likely to manifest at the earliest. The risk of re-emerging polio infection is also something one has to watch out for. Pertussis would be more distributed than diphtheria, and is unlikely to be an outbreak. However, for both HIB and Pertussis, the proportion of these diseases will go up in a population. Dr. Kang was speaking at a webinar, ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Childhood Immunisations’, organised by Sabin Institute in association with Internews Asia Media Dialogue.

Over the course of the pandemic, during the lockdowns, much of the health resources went towards addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19, Dr. Kang said. In the process, one of the side effects was the drop in childhood immunisation rates last year. There were children who did not get any vaccines, and others who got partially vaccinated. The children who got no vaccines were not only those who counted among the anti-vaccers, but also those from families with poor access to healthcare. In the case of the group that received partial vaccination, a pandemic disrupts the health-seeking behaviour of the family that usually brings the child in to get his or her shot. Safety was a key issue during the past year.

In South East Asia, Dr. Kang said there had been an emphasis on surveillance for a very long time. In terms of services, infrastructure and human resources, it took a long time to set it up, but everything that was built over a period of time had gone due to COVID-19. Unless efforts were made to revive the childhood immunisation programme in full measure, it will be difficult to prevent children from contracting vaccine-preventable diseases that could be killers, she added.

Sumnima Tuladhar, Executive Director, CWIN-Nepal, and Jaya Sreedhar and Sonny Krishnan of InterNews also participated in the webinar.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 8:46:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/need-urgent-focus-on-improving-childhood-immunisation/article37832867.ece

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