New Delhi: The government will add four vaccines as part of a programme to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by next year and meet global polio eradication targets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Thursday.

With these vaccines will be introduced as part of the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP), government will be providing free vaccines against 13 life threatening diseases to 27 million children annually, the largest birth cohort in the world.

Vaccines against rotavirus, rubella and polio (injectable) will collectively expedite India’s progress on meeting the Millennium Development Goal 4 targets to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by the year 2015 and meet global polio eradication targets.

In addition, an adult vaccine against Japanese encephalitis will be introduced in districts with high levels of the disease.

Along with the recent introduction of the pentavalent vaccine, this decision represents one of the most significant policy leaps in 30 years in public health, preventing at least one lakh infant deaths, deaths of adults in working age group and up to 10 lakhs hospitalizations each year.

“The introduction of four new lifesaving vaccines will play a key role in reducing the childhood and infant mortality and morbidity in the country," Modi said.

“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," he said.

“India is committed to tackle child mortality and provide health for all through multiple initiatives taken up by the government. Strengthening routine immunization is an essential investment in India’s children and will ensure a healthy future of the country,“ Modi said.

Diarrohea caused by rotavirus kills nearly 80,000 children each year, results in up to 10 lakh hospitalizations, pushing many Indian families below the poverty line. It also imposes an economic burden of over 300 crore each year to the country.

India has developed and licensed its first indigenous rotavirus vaccine developed under a public-private partnership by the ministry of science and the ministry of health and family welfare. This vaccine will be introduced in a phased manner.

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