Mumbai: Following the Centre's directive over measles outbreak, the State Health Department is now preparing guidelines for speedy vaccination of children from vulnerable areas. According to the official data, 1.74 lakh children under the age of five years in Maharashtra had missed their scheduled vaccination against measles. Mumbai and Malegaon top the list of cities, with the maximum number of unvaxxed children.
On Nov 23, the Centre instructed all states and union territories to start administering the first dose of measles and rubella vaccines to children between six and nine months. It also stressed upon focusing on those areas which have more than 10% of total measles cases. “We received the Centre's suggestions yesterday. We are now preparing guidelines which will be given to all the districts. Also, we are identifying how many children between six and nine months are eligible for measles and rubella vaccination,” said a senior immunisation officer.
In Mumbai, till September this year, nearly 20,000 children missed their measles vaccine; 9,549 missed the first dose and 10,345 the second. The number of measles cases in the city surged to 25 in September compared to the 10 cases recorded in the entirety of 2021. This was followed by Malegaon, where 10,386 and 6,968 children missed their first dose and second doses, respectively. Under the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation, 2,980 and 2,291 children missed their scheduled first and second doses of vaccines, respectively, till September.
Doctors believe that incomplete immunisation and breakthrough infection are the main reasons behind contracting the virus. “Measles vaccination has 85% efficiency. So, nearly 15% of people have the chance of contracting the infection later in their lives. Also, there is a possibility that these older children didn’t get both the doses,” said a senior paediatrician from the state-run hospital.
State Surveillance Officer Dr Pradip Awate said, “Door-to-door surveys are underway to identify children under the age of five for routine immunisation. The administration must also consider lowering the age for the first dose to six months from the current nine months. The state must also offer special care to malnourished children.”
Dr Vasant Nagvekar from Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital said that the virus is extremely infectious with attack rates up to 90% for those unvaxxed.