To protect children from major childhood diseases measles and rubella, the government today launched a nationwide vaccination campaign. Under the campaign, children aged between nine months and 15 will be administered the measles-rubella vaccine (MR-VAC). The campaign will start from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Lakshadweep and Goa. It will be launched in Goa on February 7.
Following this, the vaccine will be introduced in the Universal Immunisation Progarmme, replacing the currently given two doses of measles vaccine at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age. UNICEF and WHO are providing technical support to the programme.
The government is committed to eradicating measles and rubella, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Faggan Singh Kulaste said at the launch function.
"We have taken this as an achievable target. This shall be taken up in a mission mode and rolled out in partnership with states, NGOs and development partners such as WHO, UNICEF, Gates Foundation, Lions Club, IPA, IMA, etc. In the nationwide campaign, the Ministry will cover 41 crore children in the age group of nine months to 15 years, Kulaste said.
Amids rumours on social media that the vaccine may cause serious side effects, Deputy Commissioner, Immunisation, Health Ministry Pradeep Haldar said the vaccine is completely safe. It is being made by the Serum Institute of India, which is world's largest producer of the vaccine and provides it to most countries in Africa and Asia.
"The vaccine is completely safe and MMR has been used extensively in private set ups for long. One in 10 lakhs may develop allergy but for that we have already put in place a mechanism if there is any such event," he said.