Srinagar: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, is mulling to engage local clerics and religious leaders in Jammu and Kashmir to make the Measles-Rubella vaccination campaign a success.
Speaking at a media sensitisation workshop on Saturday, the ministry’s Deputy Commissioner, Immunization, Dr Pradeep Haldar said that the vaccination campaign faced many challenges including misinformation and rumour mongering which can be countered with positive awareness programmes through influential people in society, including clerics, religious leaders and medical practitioners.
Dr Haldar also launched a mass awareness and sensitisation campaign for Measles-Rubella vaccination coverage in Kashmir in collaboration with UNICEF India and World Health Organization (WHO). It is considered as the “biggest” vaccination drive under the Universal Immunization Program (UIP).
“Religious leaders and community heads would be involved to make it a successful campaign through outreach sessions,” Dr Haldar said.
“We had to face a lot of misinformation and fake news issues in many states regarding the Measles-Rubella vaccination, so we have decided to engage influential people like clerics and religious leaders in J&K in the campaign. Awareness and information campaigns will be held in educational institutions across J&K and religious seminaries like Dar-ul-Ulooms, monasteries and madrasas,” he said.
According to the Deputy Commissioner, the first target group will include physically handicapped, mentally challenged children, and students of blind schools.
“The Measles-Rubella vaccine will be introduced in routine immunisation and will be part of UIP in Jammu and Kashmir, replacing the currently given two doses of measles vaccine at 9-12 months and 16-24 months. The vaccination will be provided free of cost and will be given through auto-disposable syringes,” he said.
Earlier, Director Family Welfare, J&K, Dr Samir Mattoo said that under the vaccination programme, 43.33 lakh children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years will be vaccinated in J&K.
Dr Mattoo said the task is gigantic but the state is sure that the campaign will be successfully launched and completed with support from other departments like Education, ICDS, etc.
“We will cover all government and private schools, as 80% of the targeted children will be vaccinated in schools in the first phase, starting from September 2018. The rest 20% will be covered by outreach and sweeping sessions,” he said.
“We have to cover all districts including far-flung areas under this programme, to reach every child. It will help us prevent mortality associated with Measles and congenital disorders associated with Rubella,” Dr Mattoo said.
The event was attended by Kashmir and New-Delhi based journalists and public health and child health experts including senior paediatrician Dr Muzaffar Jan, Head of Department, Social and Preventive Medicine, GMC Srinagar; Dr Muhammad Salim Khan, Dr Sheema Chowdhary (SMO Srinagar Health), and Rahi Riyaz Ahmed.
Others who spoke on the occasion including WHO’s sub-regional team leader for North India, Dr Srinivasan; State Immunization Officer Dr Qazi Haroon; and Communication Officer UNICEF India Sonia Sarkar.
Addressing the gathering, Sonia Sarkar said, “Media has been our long-standing partner in the fight against polio. We now seek your support to ensure that children, no matter where they live, are immunised. Vaccination not only saves children’s lives and ensures healthy and productive future, but is also one of the most cost-effective public health interventions.”