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Context: India achieved a remarkable milestone in its immunisation programme by reaching an all-time high of 93% coverage for the third dose of diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT3) vaccine in 2022, according to the latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- According to the latest estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), India achieved a remarkable milestone in its immunisation programme in 2022, reaching the highest-ever coverage rate for the third dose of diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT3) vaccines.
- India recorded a 93% coverage rate for DPT3 in 2022, up from 85% in 2021 and surpassing the previous record of 91% in 2019, before the pandemic disrupted routine immunisation services.
- The WHO South-East Asia Region showed a strong recovery in its immunisation coverage in 2022, matching the pre-pandemic level of 91% for DPT3, after dropping to 82% in 2021. The region also improved its coverage of the measles vaccine from 86% in 2021 to 92% in 2022.
- These achievements demonstrate the resilience and commitment of the health workers and governments in the region to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
- DPT3 immunisation is the third dose of the vaccine that protects children against three deadly diseases: diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. It is one of the essential vaccines that every child should receive as part of the routine immunisation programme.
- Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus are serious infections that can cause severe complications and even death in children.
- Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects the throat and can cause breathing problems, heart failure and paralysis.
- Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes violent coughing fits and can lead to pneumonia, seizures and brain damage.
- Tetanus is a bacterial infection that enters the body through wounds and causes painful muscle spasms, lockjaw and breathing difficulties.
- These diseases are preventable with vaccines, but they still pose a threat to millions of children around the world who do not have access to them.
- DPT3 immunisation has a significant impact on reducing the burden of disease and mortality caused by diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. According to the WHO, between 2000 and 2019, DPT3 immunisation prevented an estimated 50 million deaths from these diseases globally. It also contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 3 on ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all.
- Inadequate supply of vaccines and cold chain equipment.
- Lack of trained health workers and community mobilisers.
- Low awareness and demand for immunisation among parents and caregivers.
- Geographical, socio-economic and cultural barriers to accessing immunisation services.
- Conflicts, disasters and emergencies that disrupt health systems and service delivery.
Steps Taken by the Indian Government to Improve DPT3 Immunisation
- India has made remarkable progress in improving its DPT3 immunisation coverage over the years. According to the WHO and UNICEF estimates for national immunisation coverage for 2022, India recorded an all-time high of 93% DPT3 coverage in 2022.
- India also reduced the number of zero-dose children (those that have not received even the first dose of the DPT vaccine) from 2.9 million in 2021 to 1.4 million in 2022.
Some of the steps taken by the Indian government to achieve this feat include:
- Strengthening the supply chain management and cold chain infrastructure for vaccine delivery.
- Expanding the reach of immunisation services to remote, rural and urban slum areas.
- Enhancing the capacity and motivation of health workers and frontline workers.
- Launching innovative campaigns and initiatives such as Mission Indradhanush, Intensified Mission Indradhanush, Indradhanush Plus and COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.
- Leveraging digital technologies such as the CoWIN platform, eVIN system, m-RNA app and RapidSMS for real-time monitoring and data management.
- Engaging with various stakeholders such as civil society organisations, media, religious leaders, celebrities and influencers to generate awareness and demand for immunisation
- Addressing misinformation, rumours and vaccine hesitancy through effective communication strategies
Way Forward for DPT3 Immunisation in India
- While India has achieved commendable results in DPT3 immunisation, there is still room for improvement. According to the WHO South-East Asia Region Director, "The momentum built with impressive efforts and immunisation service recoveries must continue to benefit every child for a healthy and productive life". WHO also urged countries to focus on reaching unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children with quality immunisation services.
Some of the actions that India can take to further improve its DPT3 immunisation coverage include:
- Ensuring adequate availability and accessibility of vaccines for all eligible children.
- Addressing the remaining gaps and inequities in immunisation coverage across states, districts and socio-demographic groups.
- Strengthening the surveillance and response systems for vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Integrating immunisation with other essential health services and social protection schemes.
- Investing in research and innovation to develop new and improved vaccines and delivery mechanisms.
- Collaborating with regional and global partners to share best practices and learnings.
- DPT3 immunisation is a vital intervention that can save millions of lives and improve the health and well-being of children. India has shown remarkable leadership and commitment in scaling up its DPT3 immunisation coverage despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. India should continue to build on its achievements and strive to reach every child with DPT3 immunisation and other life-saving vaccines.
Q. Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and protect public health. However, many challenges and barriers hinder global vaccination efforts, such as vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, inequitable access, and logistical difficulties. How can India, as a major producer and consumer of vaccines, overcome these challenges and contribute to the global vaccination campaign?