India launches national immunization campaign against Rotavirus tomorrow

India launches national immunization campaign against Rotavirus tomorrow

N.B . Nair

New Delhi (ISJ) - Tomorrow (March 26), India will launch one of the biggest immunization campaign against Rota Virus, which kills about 78,000 children in the country every year.� Rota Virus is singularly responsible for 40% of all cases of diarrhoea in the country.� According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Diarrhoea kills 7.6 lakh children, of which 4.53 lakh are caused by Rota Virus.

This will be the second major offensive planned against any disease, exactly two years after WHO certified India polio-free.� Another significant feature of the campaign is, the vaccine against rota virus, Rotavac was developed indigenously ? by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, at a fraction of the cost of drug currently available in the market, produced by multinational drug manufacturers.� Rotavac costs about Rs. 200 per child, against the current price of about Rs. 3,000, without any compromise in its efficacy.

Buoyed by the earlier campaign that eradicated polio and the advent of low-cost indigenous vaccine, health authorities have now drafted an ambitious plan to vaccinate some 30 million children a year in the country against Rota Virus.

The first phase of vaccination would be launched by federal Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda in Bhubaneswar, Odisha Saturday (March 26). Initially, it will cover the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, besides Odisha under the Universal Immunization Programme of the federal government.

Diarrhoea alone kills more children across the world than AIDS, Malaria and Measles combined. It is the second leading cause of child mortality worldwide and India alone accounts for a fourth of global diarrhoeal deaths. Diarrhoea also causes a vicious cycle of malnutrition, weakening the immunity and making children more prone to disease in turn.

It is highly contagious and spreads through oral-faecal route. The virus is greatly resistant to traditional methods of controlling diarrhea, such as improved hygiene and sanitation.

It can cause severe, rapid vomiting quickly leading to dehydration and possibly death. There is no specific drug cure for Rota virus. It can be treated with ORS and Zinc supplements, like other acute diarrhoeas. In severe cases, hospitalizations maybe required for treatment with IV fluids. An estimated 32.7 lakh children under five years of age are taken with the disease, out of which 8.7 lakh requires hospitalization.

The economic burden of Rota virus diarrhoea is over 1000 crores a year. Each episode of Rota virus costs over 7% of average annual income of Indian families, enough to push low income families below poverty line.

Rota virus vaccine is being used in national immunization programme of 80 countries. In India, private practitioners have been using it for several years. Children in all countries ? regardless of sanitation levels ? are infected with Rota virus, which is why Rota virus vaccines are being rolled out in countries like the US and UK. Mexico recorded 46% drop in diarrhoea related deaths in children under the age of five after the introduction of the vaccine in 2007.

Vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent Rota virus infection. General measures to prevent diarrhoea, like good hygiene, frequent hand washing, safe water and safe food consumption, exclusive breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation reduce the risk of infection, but are not enough to control the spread of the disease.

Open defecation in India is a major cause for spread of diseases. Over 50% of India?s 1.25 billion population defecate outdoors.� The federal government has launched an ambitious plan for cleanliness ? Swachh Bharat Mission and approved a 1,500 million US dollar project, funded by World Bank for sanitation facilities across the country.

It would encourage states to provide facilities to reduce the prevalence of open defecation and improve solid and liquid waste management, besides overall sanitation of rural India.

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