UNO: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday asked countries like India to close the immunisation gap to avert 1.5 million deaths globally due to vaccine-preventable diseases.
India is one of the countries where immunisation coverage is less than 80%.
"If (for example) you have 70% coverage, for a place like India, (in terms) of absolute numbers, lot of children (will be unvaccinated)," said Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, World Health Organization (WHO) Director of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals. "India is not one country. India is several countries and within India you have most states doing extremely well with more than 80% coverage and a few in the north, like UP (that have far less coverage). They are now getting in the mode where the lessons from polio (eradication) are being translated into support for vaccination (increased general immunization coverage)," he added.
An estimated 21.8 million infants worldwide missed out on basic vaccines in 2013 mostly in poor, low-resource countries, according to the WHO. "The good news is that nearly all developing countries have added three to five vaccines to those that were available to them 40 years ago. No polio cases reported in the past eight months or so from Africa or the Middle East. We are doing more on immunisations than a decade back," Okwo-Bele said prior to the World Immunisation Week which is held in the last week of April each year.
"(However), the concerns that we have is that one in five children is missing out on routine immunisation. The concern is also about the trend in terms of a plateauing of vaccination rates. That trend has been seen in the past four years or so," stated Okwo-Bele. "As a consequence, we see one-and-a-half million premature deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases each year. Today WHO is calling to close the immunisation gap."
Immunisation helps to prevent up to 3 million deaths globally. For the first time, the global health organisation will hold a meeting of 34 countries - including India - on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly which will be held next month for upping the coverage of vaccines in these countries. "Majority of the 34 countries — 60%— are just in six countries — India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia," Okwo-Bele said. "For example, we would expect India to share its experience on how they are playing the lessons from the successful polio eradication drive to broader immunisation agenda."