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India adds rubella vaccine to their immunisation programme

10 July 2014

Alisha, a young girl, playing with a ball with her mother

A vaccine against rubella has been added to India's Universal Immunisation Programme, India's Prime Minister announced this week.

Rubella is a common, highly contagious illness and is caused by a virus which is spread by coughing and sneezing. However, if contracted by a woman who is pregnant, the effects can be devastating. A child born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) may have hearing and vision impairments, heart problems, learning disabilities and other health problems.

To prevent women who are pregnant from catching rubella from someone else the rubella virus needs to be eradicatedā€“ and the only way to do this is by vaccination. It is estimated that nearly 2000 babies are born with congenital defects each year in India. Therefore this announcement for a immunisation campaign is a huge boost in the battle to eradicate rubella.

The rubella vaccine is one of four new vaccines to be added to India's immunisation programme ā€“ the others being Japanese Encephalitis, rotavirus, and polio (injectable). With these new vaccines, India's UIP will now provide free vaccines against 13 life threatening diseases, to 27 million children annually.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: "India is committed to tackling child mortality and providing health for all. Strengthening routine immunisation is an essential investment in India's children and will ensure a healthy future of the country.

"Many of these vaccines are already available through private practitioners to those who can afford them. The government will now ensure that the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of the society, regardless of social and economic status."

Akhil Paul, Director of Sense International India, said: "We are delighted that the Indian Government taken this step. Rubella can be a devastating condition and we hope that, like in many other parts of the world, the threat of rubella will recede once the immunisation programme is fully established."

The World Health Organisation estimates that there are more than 100,000 children born with birth defects as a result of CRS every year in developing countries.

 

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Wednesday 11 October 2017