India & the matter of measles
“Vaccination is one of the easiest things on the way to development. It’s much easier than roads and a great education system. It’s very basic. It’s one of the first things you want to get right.” - Bill Gates.
Unfortunately, our country has seen a significant rise in the number of measles cases, which is disappointing given the fact that there has been a vaccine for the highly contagious viral disease for over 4 decades. According to a WHO report, the first 3 months of 2019 has witnessed a 300 percent jump in measles cases as compared to the data collected from same period, last year.
The numbers are not shocking because lately, there’s been a vaccine resistance – one of the top threats to public health 2019 - among people and there are good reasons to believe that social media might be causing it. A popular messaging phone application is being marked as one of the prime tools through which misinformation about vaccines is being spread. Making it worse are the multiple digital documentaries promoting conspiracy theories.
The mandate is to administer 2 doses of measles vaccine to protect the children from the disease. However, due to lack of access to health centres, awareness issues & scepticism children miss out on the 2nddose and often times, the 1st one as well.
In India, 2.9 million children have missed out on the first dose of measles vaccine between period 2010 and 2017: UNICEF
The numbers may rise further if we don’t aim at mass immunisation of children. When a child misses on the 2nd dose, s/he isn’t protected. Reports suggest 15 % of children who receive the 1st dose aren’t fully immune and run the risk of contracting the infection.
The disease is extremely communicable and may transfer through cough/ sneeze to those in close proximity to the one who is infected.
The consistent spike in numbers has officials worried and they believe the country must go for mass (over 95% coverage) immunisation to ensure that its children are protected and healthy. “The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike,” PTI quoted Henrietta Fore, executive director, UNICEF as saying.
The government’s Universal Immunisation Programme is doing all that it can to reach out to every child. What can we do to ensure that people have enough and more reasons to get themselves & their children vaccinated as per schedule?
Disseminating authentic knowledge on social media is one of the first and most important things we can do help the measles cases. Know what you are getting into & seek information & verify them from a genuine, educate source as you receive it.