The UNICEF has once again stressed upon the importance of administering a second dose of the measles vaccine and encouraged India to adopt a two-dose measles control strategy. The agency said that this along with enhanced routine immunization has averted 3.4 million deaths between 2000 and 2007 in countries with previously high measles burden.
This was stated in an article published in the special issue of Indian Pediatrics (November 2009) which is dedicated to immunization with focus on measles.
The article is dedicated almost entirely to measles immunization in India, the only country that has not adopted a two-dose measles control strategy.
The article notes that India is in the process of introducing into its childhood vaccination programme a second dose of measles vaccination, which could save an estimated 123,000 child deaths annually.
"It is great that India is addressing suffering and avoidable measles deaths among the poorest and most vulnerable children in the country," said Dr. Edward Hoekstra, UNICEF Senior Health Specialist, speaking from New York. "Many other countries have successfully started implementing a second dose of measles vaccination in recent years with a sharp drop in measles related mortality."
Measles is one of the most infectious viral diseases but can be prevented by vaccination. However, adequate vaccination requires two doses of measles vaccine, which is usually delivered through mass vaccination campaigns and/or an age-based immunization schedule.
"Although Indian immunization performance has improved over the past few years, more challenges remain, including introduction of a second dose of measles vaccine," said Dr. Panna Choudhury, President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, which publishes Indian Pediatrics.
In November 2008, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization, the principal advisory body to World Health Organization (WHO), recommended that all children should receive two doses of measles vaccine: the first dose during routine vaccination programme and the second dose either through routine services or through mass campaigns.
"India should act without delay, to implement measles mortality reduction as recently recommended by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI)," said Professor Jacob John, past president, Indian Academy of Pediatrics. "The Government of India has accepted this recommendation and the Immunization Division is currently making plans to implement it."
The article can be accessed at: http://indianpediatrics.net/