The Union Health Ministry on Friday debunked reports of lakhs of Indian children who may have missed routine vaccinations due to Covid-19 disruptions, leading to an increased risk of future outbreaks and deaths.
The ministry clarified that the government has been focused on maintaining essential services including immunization under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). The Ministry along with all States and UTs and development partners, has worked towards mitigating negative impacts of COVID-19 and taking urgent actions to ensure that children receive life-saving vaccines under UIP, it said in a statement.
Furthermore, as a result of commitment of Government of India and public health workforce, the country has achieved 99% DTP3 coverage in the first quarter of 2021 (January – March) as measured by HMIS. This is the highest DTP3 coverage measured till date.
In order to mitigate negative impacts of COVID-19 on vaccination services, the ministry listed other steps that have also been taken including — a national guideline to safely continue immunisation services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including polio Supplementary Immunisation Activities (SIAs), state and district level trainings on new guidelines to ensure safe delivery of vaccines, monitoring and supervision by state and district task forces for missed vaccinations, identification of high risk groups/areas (e.g. children who missed vaccination during COVID-19 outbreaks, districts with high vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), districts with low vaccine coverage, etc.), intensified Mission Indradhanush (Intensified Immunisation Drive) in identified 250 high risk districts wherein more than 9.5 lakh children and 2.24 lakh pregnant women were vaccinated.
Completion of one national immunisation round and two sub-national rounds to maintain high population immunity against polio, a Risk Communication and Community Engagement Strategy (RCCE) for Covid-19 has been developed and implemented. Integrated communication messaging for uptake of essential services including immunization which includes the urban area and RCCE capacity building modules has also been developed and implemented for frontline workers and line department functionaries, it said in a release.
The statement comes a day after the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, (UNICEF) said India has the highest number of under-vaccinated or unvaccinated children worldwide at 3.5 million, an increase of 1.4 million from 2019, amid the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Globally, the UNICEF said the data shows that just 10 countries account for 62 per cent of all under- or unvaccinated children globally. India - particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic - had the highest number of unprotected children worldwide at 3.5 million, an increase of 1.4 million compared with 2019, when the number of unprotected children was 2.1 million, the children’s body said.