‘Authorities don’t know the number of children affected by measles in JK’
SRINAGAR: Authorities in Kashmir do not know the number of children affected by measles – a viral infection that’s serious for small children – in the state, said Director Family Welfare, Maternal and Child Health, (FW, MCH) and Immunisation, Dr Sameer Matoo on Tuesday.
At a press conference held jointly by the Health Department, Private Schools Association J&K (PSAJK) and local doctors of World Health Organisation (WHO) at the Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) here, the members informed that “a massive measles/ rubella vaccination programme, targeting 45 lakh children” across the state would be launched from September this year.
In the campaign, children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years will be targeted in a phased manner, followed by administering of the vaccine in routine immunisation, they said.
“40,000 people succumbed to measles out of some 2.5 lakh affected by the disease,” Dr Matoo said adding they don’t know about the exact number of the affected children in the state.
He however talked about the rough figures of 30 to 40,000 cases of measles in the J&K.
“We don’t have the exact figures, but are in the process of collecting the information. We want to eliminate measles by 2020 and want to control rubella for which the vaccine has been introduced only recently,” he said.
Dr Matoo said the immunity against measles among children had increased after two injections were administered in 2010.
Since then, he said, the incidence of measles had come down. “So, it is a disease we can totally control and eliminate.”
Dr Matoo said the proposed vaccination campaign would be carried out in three phases.
“The first phase will run for a month. It will be totally committed to schools where we will be covering 80 percent of child population enrolled there. The remaining 20 percent will be covered through outreach sessions,” he informed.
During the outreach sessions, he said, there would be not just house-to-house immunisation, but house-to-house search. “The role of ICDS and teachers comes into play here,” he added.
He said the 3rd phase would be a “sweeping session” that will run for a week’s time. “The whole campaign will be of one and a half month’s duration,” he informed.
Dr Matoo said it had been a long time since such a campaign was last launched.
He impressed upon involving the non-conventional educational institutions including orphanages and schools for the disabled children in the campaign.
While the vaccination for rubella has been introduced in 19 Indian states, it was yet to be introduced in J&K, Dr Matoo said.
“At the moment, we are trying to contain rubella. Due to the prevailing climatic conditions here, there is more chance of measles in the state,” he added.
President Private Schools Association Jammu Kashmir (PSAJK), G N Var said, “Given an absolute attendance of lakhs of students in private schools, we will make the campaign effective.”
“Sensing our moral responsibility, we decided to cooperate with the Directorate of FW, MCH and Immunisation,” Var said. “We have 7 lakh children enrolled in private schools. Besides, in seminaries and several other institutions, hundreds of students are enrolled. We have usually seen that the ground results in such campaigns contradict the government’s rhetoric,” he said.
Meanwhile, a joint statement of the participating members in the presser said that the campaign “aims to rapidly build up immunity for both measles and rubella, and also provides a second opportunity for children left out in routine immunisation”.
“The goal of MR campaign is to accelerate population immunity by reaching 100 percent target children with MR vaccine that will reduce cases and deaths from measles…,” the statement said.