GUWAHATI, Sept 24 - Experts at a consultative meet organised by the Directorate of Health Services (Family Welfare), Government of Assam, with support from UNICEF, urged the media to support the ongoing measles-rubella vaccination campaign in order to ensure that all children receive the vaccine.
Experts at the meeting held here included Dr Pradeep Haldar, Deputy Commissioner, Immunization, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; Mallika Medhi, Director of Health Services (Family Welfare), Government of Assam; Dr Binita Goswami, State Immunisation Officer, Government of Assam, and officials from UNICEF, WHO and UNDP.
The workshop was attended by representatives of national and regional media.
�The campaign was launched in Assam in August 2018 with a target of over 95 lakh children. So far, over 50 lakh children have been covered,� Medhi said.
Pointing out India�s commitment to eliminate measles and control rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by 2020, the experts referred to the �largest ever vaccination campaign worldwide� that aims to cover approximately 41 crore children in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years of age.
�Children will be given a single shot of measles-rubella (MR) vaccine during the campaign. Following the campaign, MR vaccine will become a part of routine immunization and will replace the measles vaccine, currently given to children at 9-12 months and 16-24 months,� they said.
Dr Haldar said the MR campaign was one of the largest and most unique by the government. �It is much larger than the polio campaign and aims to cover a big cohort of children from 9 months to less than 15 years. The measles-rubella vaccine which will be provided for free in schools, in health facilities and at outreach session sites, is a step towards achieving elimination of measles and control of rubella,� he said.
Tahseen Alam, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Assam, said the media in Assam had been very pro-active in addressing rumours and fake news during the campaign. �We look forward to your continued support in making this campaign a success,� she said.
Dr Subhajit Bhattacharjee of WHO-NPSP said India had already beaten small pox, polio, maternal and neonatal tetanus and yaws, and further gains in the battle against measles would help achieve a number of other public health priorities.
Dr Sridhar Ryavanki of UNICEF highlighted the myths associated with the MR vaccine and the role the media could play in addressing the myths.
The campaign has already been completed in 17 states and Union Territories. The first phase was launched in February 2017 in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Lakshadweep and Puducherry. Assam launched the MR vaccine under phase-III of the campaign. More than 11 crore children across the country have been administered the vaccine so far.
UNICEF in association with civil society organisations, partners and academia has been engaging with the media as a critical stakeholder to create awareness about the MR vaccine and address myths around immunization to ensure every child in the country gets a fair start.