The COVID-induced pandemic has badly impacted India’s routine immunisation programme across Maharashtra in the last two years.
As per data, 85% of beneficiaries had taken the second dose of the measles vaccine in 2020-21, which dropped to 55% this year (till October). Moreover, the overall working of the immunisation programme has dropped 97% to 56% during the same period.
Officials said lakhs of health workers were diverted to respond to the pandemic and as a result, coverage for some critical early vaccines dropped.
“We had to tackle the pandemic for two years, which had a negative impact on routine immunisation drives. We are trying to identify kids who have missed any vaccinations and have instructed district health officers to conduct door-to-door visits for immunisation,” state immunisation officer, Dr Sachin Desai said.
However, the gap in routine immunisation could now lead to multiple such outbreaks of infections which have to be aggressively traced and treated, said experts.
Experts weigh in
Dr Amitav Banerjee, department head of community medicine at Dr DY Patil Medical College (Pune) said infections likemeasles canbeveryfatalin a malnourished child.
“With the measles outbreak in the state, all focus should be shifted to vaccinating children who are most susceptible to it. Moreover, there are many myths and misconceptions with respect to vaccines for measles, OPV, diphtheria, tetanus, and others. This can lead to vaccine hesitancy," he said.
"Measles, diphtheria, and whooping cough could be deadly in small children and polio causes disability. BCG vaccine is given at birth so every child delivered institutionally will get the vaccine but measles vaccine is given at about nine months and so it is most likely to be missed during the pandemic,” Dr Banerjee added.
A senior civic health official said the state can now detect kids below the age of one year and those malnourished for vaccination in case of an emergency. In case of the case of older malnourished kids, the child should be given proper nourishment to boost immunity. “The state has now instructed the civic bodies to conduct special drives to find kids from brick kilns, construction sites and other migration sites,” the official said
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