The plan to provide the Rotavirus vaccine to prevent diarrhoea will be now be expanded across India by September, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.

“The Health Ministry has drawn plan under the 100-day agenda of the newly-elected government, wherein it has been decided to provide rotavirus vaccine to every child across all 36 States and Union Territories (UTs) by September 2019,” said Harsh Vardhan.

Every year in India, 37 out of every 1,000 children born are unable to celebrate their fifth birthday, and one of the major reasons for this is deaths due to diarrhoea. Rotavirus is a leading cause of diarrhoea in children less than five years of age. It is estimated that it causes 8,72,000 hospitalisations, 32,70,000 outpatient visits and estimated 78,000 deaths annually in India.

Preventing rotavirus

Rotavirus diarrhoea, unlike other forms of diarrhoea, can only be prevented through the vaccination. Other forms can be prevented by maintaining basic hygiene — frequent hand washing, safe water and food consumption, exclusive breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation.

Harsh Vardhan further said that diarrhoea is one of the biggest cause of death among children and Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of severe diarrhoea in children less than two years of age. “Rotavirus vaccine along with proper sanitation, hand washing practices, ORS and zinc supplementation will go a long way in reducing the mortality and morbidity due to diarrhoea in children,” he mentioned.

When the Rotavirus vaccine pilot was launched,concerns were raised about intussusception — an intestinal blockage in babies, caused as a possible side-effect of the vaccine. Health Ministry officials said that such cases were not recorded in the pilot.

India is committed to ending morbidity and mortality in children due to diarrhoea by 2022. The Minister further added that the government is also committed to increasing the full immunisation coverage and ensuring that the benefit of the life-saving vaccines is provided to every child. According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, the immunisation coverage in India stood at 62 per cent, lagging behind China (90 per cent), Bangladesh (95 per cent) and Sri Lanka (95 per cent).

Three doses of the Rotavirus vaccine are provided along with other vaccines, free of cost, under Universal Immunisation Programme at one-and-half-months, two-and-half-months, and three-and-half-months of age.