Home / Politics / Policy /  Immunization programme: 4 new vaccines introduced

New Delhi: Accepting the recommendations made by the National Technical Advisory Group of India (NTAGI), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced the introduction of four new vaccines as part of India’s Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). These include vaccines against rotavirus, rubella and polio (injectable), along with an adult vaccine against Japanese encephalitis.

These vaccines could prevent the deaths of at least 100,000 infants, and of people in the working age group, in addition to around one million hospitalizations each year, according to a release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. India’s UIP will now provide free vaccines against 13 life threatening diseases to 27 million children annually.

“The introduction of four new life-saving vaccines will play a key role in reducing the childhood and infant mortality and morbidity in the country. Many of these vaccines are already available through private practitioners to those who can afford them. The government will now ensure that the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of the society, regardless of social and economic status," the Prime Minister said while introducing the vaccines.

The indigenously developed rotavirus vaccine was licensed last year and is aimed at preventing deaths from diarrhoea in children under five. The rubella (German measles) vaccine is aimed at children under six.

The injectable polio vaccine is expected to help maintain India’s polio-free status that it won in March 2014, by introducing the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) along with the oral polio vaccine (OPV).

An adult vaccine against Japanese encephalitis (JE), a disease that can result in paralysis and death, will be introduced in 179 endemic districts in nine states.

With these vaccines, the government is hoping to accelerate its progress towards achieving health-related Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations that are to be achieved by 2015.

Some experts, however, disagree with NTAGI’s approach towards reducing the incidence of these diseases.

“Spending all our resources on introduction of expensive vaccines will not reduce incidence. Diarrhoea is caused by many problems, and the vaccine only targets one of the causes, while childhood immunization for rubella will only increase the chance of incidence in adults," said Jacob Puliyel, a member at the NTAGI. “Instead, the focus should be more on resources being used for better public health measures, like equipping primary health centres with doctors or maybe making oral rehydration solution and antibiotics more accessible."

The Indian government set up the NTAGI in 2001 to advise it on technical matters related to immunization.

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