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The immunization target to achieve 90% immunization throughout the country by 2020 has now been advanced to 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the deadline to achieve the target is now two years earlier.
India's universal immunization programme (UIP) was launched in 1985. In 2014, the new Bharatiya Janata Party government re-launched India's UIP, named it 'Mission Indradhanush', and tasked it with achieving 90% immunization coverage by 2020, which it now attempts to do by 2018.
‘Unlike with polio, where the vaccination has focused on total eradication,the government says its focus is on routine immunization.’
The UIP is one of the world's largest health programmes and believes that "full immunization against preventable childhood diseases is the right of every child." It provides vaccines to children and pregnant women against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases.
'Mission Indradhanush' has now vaccinated 2.47 crore children, out of which 55 lakh children have been fully immunized. It has also vaccinated 67 lakh pregnant women. This has happened over four phases since 2015, spread over 528 districts.
Between 2009 and 2013, the increase in immunization coverage had been at 1% per year. Between 2015-16, India's immunization coverage increased by 6.7% per year, with more success in rural areas compared to urban areas.
The UIP provides vaccines against life threatening diseases like Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, Measles, Pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae type B and Japanese Encephalitis. India partners with global organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO) on this.
A government official says this is "the highest level engagement by the Prime Minister's Office." About 11 ministries and departments will be roped in for this, including the railway ministry, women and child development ministry, the National Cadet Corps (NCC), and even the army and Border Security Forces (BSF).
"Achieving full immunization is not as simple as announcing an advanced target and having political will. Not only is the government wanting to increase its coverage of children and women, it has even increased the number of vaccines that have to be administered. Announcing a new target does not take care of manpower, supplies, budget and coordination that also needs to happen for such a quantum jump," says Anant Phadke, a doctor with Jan Arogya Abhiyan in Maharashtra. "It is unrealistic to expect such miracles of any government," he adds.
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