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Immunisation In India And The Women Behind It

The theme for The World Immunisation Week (April 24–30) this year is ‘Protected Together: Vaccines Work’ and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), India celebrated the success stories and women leaders in the areas of public health and vaccination. Each and every clog of the public healthcare machinery in India is imperative to ensure the overall health and well-being of the citizens of the country, even in the remotest parts, when it comes to immunisation.

The first ever immunisation programme in India was introduced in 1978 as ‘Expanded Programme of Immunization’ (EPI) by the MoHFW, Government of India (GoI). In 1985, the programme was modified as ‘Universal Immunization Programme’ (UIP) to be implemented in phases, in order to cover all districts in the country by 1989-90, making it one of largest health programmes in the world.

Despite being operational for many years, UIP was only able to fully immunise 65 per cent children in the first year of their life. To strengthen and re-energise the programme and achieve full immunisation coverage for all children and pregnant women at a rapid pace, GoI launched ‘Mission Indradhanush’ (MI) in December 2014.

MI aims to cover all those children by 2020 who are either unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against vaccine preventable diseases, in both urban and rural areas. The programme provides life-saving vaccines to all children across the country free of cost to protect them against tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, pneumonia, meningitis, measles and rubella, Japanese encephalitis and rotavirus diarrhea in select states and districts.

With the Mission currently in full swing,there is emphasis on reaching out to the most distant communities and settlements in the far-flung regions of many states. One such inspiring story to deliver immunisation, to areas where even GPS and mobile networks do not function and basic communicationis a challenge, is that of Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh.

Located in the backwater zone of the Narmada river makes it extremely challenging for the health workers to access this region, which is only possible by a boat ambulance called ‘Janani Express’. The Express provides regular healthcare services to the tribal dwellers of the villages nestled in these hilly areas, immunising mothers and children.

Many villages of Sondwa region in Alirajpur have also been declared as flood affected and in spite of these extreme weather conditions the implementation of the immunisation programme during MI was smoothly carried out under the leadership of young and enthusiastic Dr Narendra Bhaydia, the District Immunisation Officer (DIO), Alirajpur.

During the Mission, to ensure that no child was left unvaccinated, the block level officials also accompanied the health workers to the immunisation sessions. For almost 20 years, auxiliary nurse midwifery (ANM) worker Preskila Parmar has been serving this area single-handedly. Responsible for providing life-saving interventions, she administers vaccines religiously to over 5,000 people in the five villages that she covers. Parmar travels on foot around the housing clusters, each of them several kilometers apart, since there are no roads or other form of transport available in the region. – Deccan Chronicle