India launches one of the world’s largest vaccination campaigns against Measles and Rubella syndrome with WHO support

India launched one of the world’s largest vaccination campaigns against measles and rubella on 5 February 2017. Measles is a major childhood killer disease and rubella causes congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) that is responsible for irreversible birth defects.

The campaign, launched with technical support from WHO Country Office for India and other stakeholders, is a major step towards reducing childhood mortality and addressing birth defects.

“Measles is one of the leading causes of death among children while Rubella infection in pregnant women may cause fetal death or congenital defects. WHO congratulates the government’s decision to prevent these together with a safe and effective combined measles-rubella vaccine through one of the largest nationwide vaccination campaign,” said Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India.

Launched in five states/union territories - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep covering nearly 3.6 crore children, the campaign is targeted at vaccinating more than 41 crore children in the age group of nine months to less than 15 years over the next two years across the country. This move demonstrates India’s commitment to improve health and well-being of people by protecting children against vaccine preventable diseases.

Through its National Public Health Surveillance Project (NPSP), WHO is supporting the government with micro-planning, monitoring, preparedness and implementation of the MR campaign for quality and safety.

Under the Measles-Rubella (MR) campaign, all children in the target age group (between 9 months and less than 15 years) will be given a single shot of MR vaccination, irrespective of their previous measles/rubella vaccination status or measles/rubella disease status. The campaign will cover public and private sector settings like schools and health facilities to reach out to children in the age group of nine months to less than 15 years

This additional campaign dose will boost the immunity of child and protect the entire community by eliminating transmission of measles and rubella. This approach was a significant factor in achieving measles elimination in the Western Hemisphere (2002), and the elimination of indigenous rubella in 2009.

The measles vaccine is currently provided under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP); the rubella vaccine will be a new addition. The number of WHO Member States using rubella-containing vaccine (RCV) in their national childhood immunization schedule increased from 83 in 1996 to 149 in 2016; 14 countries have planned introduction of MR vaccine in 2017.It has proven to be a highly safe and effective vaccine.

The MR vaccine will be provided free- of- cost. After completion of the campaign, MR vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization and will replace measles vaccine, given at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age of child.