What is Rubella?
Rubella is a mild viral infection that mainly occurs in children. But a woman infected with the rubella virus during the early stage of pregnancy has a 90% chance of transmitting it to the foetus. The virus can cause hearing impairments, eye and heart defects and brain damage in newborns, and even spontaneous abortion and foetal deaths.
Why is the measles-rubella vaccine being administered to children?
Why opt for a campaign?
- Buoyed by the elimination of polio six years ago and maternal and neonatal tetanus and yaws in 2016, India has set an ambitious target of eliminating measles and controlling congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), caused by the rubella virus, by 2020.
- It is the first time that the rubella vaccine has been included in the programme. Since the rubella vaccine will piggy-back on the measles elimination programme, there will be very little additional cost.
- All children aged nine months and 15 years will be administered a single dose of the combination vaccine.
- Of the 1,10,000 children born with CRS every year globally, an estimated 40,000 cases occur in India alone.
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a single dose of rubella vaccine gives more than 95% long-lasting immunity.
Is it possible to achieve the goal by 2020?
- With the target set for 2020 to eliminate measles and control CRS, there is a compelling need to create a solid wall of immunity in all children up to 15 years in one go at the earliest. That can be achieved only if immunisation is carried out in a campaign mode.
- The measles-rubella vaccination campaign is being introduced in phases. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep are covered in the first phase.
- The entire country will be covered in four phases in 18 months. Following the campaign, two doses of the combination vaccine will become a part of the national immunisation programme. All children will receive the vaccine free at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age.
- Though the goal is only to eliminate measles and control rubella by 2020, both viruses can be eliminated if their transmission can be broken.
- For that to happen, the vaccine coverage has to be over 95% during the campaign and in the immunisation programme that follows it.
- India has to ramp up surveillance of both diseases, maintain outbreak preparedness, respond rapidly to outbreaks by vaccinating all children in a community and ensure effective and timely treatment of cases anywhere in the country.