By Dr. Gopal Dabade
Vaccines play an important role as public health tools in preventing diseases. Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective interventions for disease prevention. Traditionally, the major thrust of immunisation services has been in the reduction of infant and child mortality.
Immunisation is an important vehicle for health promotion and therefore is a true national investment. The ministry of health brings out policies that determine the type of vaccines that need to be made available in this country.
Earlier the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) was introduced in India during 1985-86 with the objective to cover at least 85 per cent of all infants against the six vaccine preventable diseases which include diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, polio, measles and tuberculosis. Of these six, the first three are given together as injections, popularly known as DPT or triple injection.
Now, the recent national vaccine policy draft, submitted by the government of India, strongly favours inclusion of new vaccines in the UIP of the country without doing a cost-benefit analysis and substantiating it with proper scientific evidence to suggest the prevalence of the diseases. The new vaccine that is being promoted is the pentavalent (a combination of five vaccines in one shot) vaccine to protect children against hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) in addition to diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT), which are already covered under the UIP.