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Photo: Jayanta Dey/Reuters
Photo: Jayanta Dey/Reuters

Government plans to expand rotavirus vaccine coverage to all states

  • Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of severe diarrhoea in children less than 2 years of age
  • Diarrhoea is one of the biggest killers in children

The Centre plans to expand the coverage of Rotavirus vaccine which protects children from rotavirus infections, the leading cause of severe diarrhoea, to all states. The vaccine is currently available only in 28 states and union territories in India.

“Diarrhoea is one of the biggest killers in children and Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of severe diarrhoea in children less than 2 years of age. Rotavirus vaccine will now be given to every child across all 36 states and UTs by September, 2019. The government aims to end morbidity and mortality in children due to diarrhoea by 2022," said Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare.

According to ministry of health and family welfare, in India, each year about 37 of every 1000 children born are unable to survive till the age of five, with diarrhoeal deaths being a major reason. “Rotavirus vaccine along with proper sanitation, hand washing practices, ORS and zinc supplementation will go a long way in reducing the mortality and morbidity due to diarrhoea in children. No child in the country should die from Vaccine Preventable Diseases," said Vardhan.

Rotavirus is a leading cause of diarrhoea in children less than 5 years of age. It is estimated that rotavirus causes 8,72,000 hospitalizations, 32,70,000 outpatient visits, and an estimated 78,000 deaths annually in India. Rotavirus diarrhoea presents in similar manner like any other diarrhoea but can mainly be prevented through rotavirus vaccination. Other diarrhoea can be prevented through general measures like good hygiene, frequent hand washing, safe water and safe food consumption, exclusive breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), an expert committee, has recommended introduction of rotavirus vaccine (RVV) in the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). Three doses of rotavirus vaccine are provided along with other vaccines, free of cost under UIP at one and half month, two and half moth, and three and half month of age of child.

Rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2016 in a phased manner, beginning with four states initially and later expanded to seven more states making it a total of 11 states by end of 2018. Since then 17 more states have been covered under the immunisation programme.

Rotavirus vaccine is now available in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Daman & Diu, Gujarat, Bihar, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Goa, Chandigarh, Nagaland, Delhi, Mizoram, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The vaccine is expected to be available in all 36 States/UTs by September 2019.

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