New Delhi: Amid an increase in the number of measles cases, the central government strictly directed the states and UTs to consider administering one additional dose of Measles and Rubella vaccines to all children, aged 9 months to 5 years, in vulnerable areas, reported news agency PTI.
Measles cases have recently increased in some districts of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Kerala, and Maharashtra.The Measles virus has been causing a rapid rise in infections and approximately 10 deaths in Maharashtra’s Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other districts.
The Union Health Ministry stated in a letter addressed to the Principal Health Secretary of Maharashtra and distributed to all states and Union Territories (UTs), “this surge is of particular concern from the public health point of view.”
Health ministry Joint Secretary P Ashok Babu stated, “It is also clear that in all such geographies, the effected children were predominantly unvaccinated and the average coverage of Measles and Rubella Containing Vaccine (MRCV) among the eligible beneficiaries is also significantly below the national average.”
In this context, he stated that a meeting of Domain Knowledge Technical Experts was held on Wednesday to examine the situation, and it was presided over by Member (Health), NITI Aayog.
The Centre advised states and UTs, based on feedback from the meeting, to consider giving one more dose to all children aged 9 months to 5 years who live in vulnerable areas where the number of cases of measles has recently increased.
The special dose for Measles and Rubella for Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) reporting purposes is referred to as the one additional dose.
“This dose would be in addition to the primary vaccination schedule of first dose at 9-12 months and second dose at 16-24 months,” he said.
The “Outbreak Response Immunization” (ORI) mode will be used by the state government and the UT administration to identify the vulnerable areas.
He stated that all children under the age of six months and those under nine months will receive a dose of MRCV in areas where the number of cases of measles in the age group of less than nine months exceeds 10%.
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“Since this dose of MRCV is being given to this cohort in “Outbreak Response Immunization” (ORI) mode, therefore, these children should also be covered by first and second dose of MRCV as per the primary (routine) Measles and Rubella vaccination schedule,” he said.
The health ministry stated that an active fever and rash surveillance mechanism needs to be strengthened for early case identification due to the disease’s annual surge in cases from November to March.
“Head count survey of all children aged 6 months to 5 years must be undertaken in the vulnerable outbreak areas to facilitate full MRCV coverage in an accelerated manner. The institutionalized mechanism of District Task Force on Immunization under the chairmanship of the District Collector must be activated to review the Measles situation on a daily and weekly basis and plan the response activities accordingly,” he said.
He emphasized that house-to-house search activities to identify such vulnerable children and provide preemptive care with nutritional and Vitamin A supplementation are also necessary as part of the case identification and management process because the disease is known to be fatal among children with moderate and severe malnourishment.
“Correct and factual information about Measles symptoms and treatment must be disseminated among the public, in general for early identification and prompt management of measles cases,” he said.
He added that any suspected cases with a fever and maculopapular rash must be reported and investigated.
(With PTI Inputs)