Progress is being made with India’s Mission Indradhanush (MI), a free vaccination campaign started on the 25th December 2014 by union health minister J P Nadda. The aim of the programme is to expand routine immunisation to include new vaccines, with the programme primarily aimed at children. DNAIndia reports that since the founding of the programme the yearly increase in immunisation coverage has been seven percent, compared to data from the years 2009 to 2013 showing a consistent one percent rise.
While a modest increase, this sets the precedent for a positive trend in regards to immunisation coverage. Also of note is the government backing for the project, bringing the immunisation drive to a national level. Criticism, however, is widespread due to funding being low compared to other countries, even those with a far smaller per capita GDP than India.
A reported Rs 275 (equivalent to around $4) is spent by the government per individual on vaccination, by comparison a much smaller country such as Vietnam spent four times more per person. A country with a more comparable economic size such as Brazil reportedly spends up to $410 (Rs 28,175) per person. This leaves India far behind despite the increase in coverage.
Despite the low budget, the drive for immunisation appears well focused, with 201 districts selected for the extra free vaccinations. These districts are said to contain nearly 50 percent of all unvaccinated children in the country. Alongside the free vaccinations a large publicity campaign was issued to raise awareness for the service.
One of the primary goals of the campaign was to raise the yearly increase in immunisation coverage from one percent to five percent. The overall aim being to achieve full coverage by 2020. While suffering a low budget, it is perhaps more of an accomplishment that the five percent expectation has been surpassed. At the end of 2013 coverage was stated to be 65 percent, if the rate of increase continues it is entirely possible that by 2020 coverage could pass a 90 percent threshold.
Of the vaccines themselves, originally seven diseases were accounted for: diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and Hepatitis B. In 2015 it was announced that the campaign would be expanded to include adult Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, Rotavirus and Measles Rubella and inactivated polio vaccine (Children have received drops of the oral polio vaccine in special campaigns for years; the inactivated vaccine is a shot and is the vaccine used for children across Europe and North America.
While the diseases currently covered are numerous, and the increase in immunisation coverage commendable, there are still calls for the budget of this project to be expanded. The scope of the project could then be extended, potentially to cover more diseases, focus on more than just child vaccinations, or simply broaden the campaign to more districts. With many medical related issues, this again comes down to a matter of government funding.