New Delhi: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Friday (July 16, 2021) issued a detailed statement and debunked reports of lakhs of Indian children who may have missed routine vaccinations owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health ministry clarified that the authorities have been focused on maintaining essential services including immunization under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).
“There have been some media reports alleging that lakhs of Indian children may have missed their routine vaccinations due to disruptions caused by COVID-19 leading to increased risk of future outbreaks and deaths…These reports are not based on facts and do not reflect the true picture,” the health ministry said in its statement on Friday.
In the statement, the ministry also stated that it along with all States and UTs and development partners, has worked towards mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19 and taking urgent actions to ensure that children receive life-saving vaccines under UIP.
Furthermore, as a result of the commitment of the Government of India and the public health workforce, the country has achieved 99% DTP3 coverage in the first quarter of 2021 (January – March) as measured by HMIS. This is the highest DTP3 coverage measured till date.
In order to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on vaccination services, the ministry has also taken other steps including- a national guideline to safely continue immunisation services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including polio Supplementary Immunisation Activities (SIAs), state and district level training on new guidelines to ensure the safe delivery of vaccines, monitoring and supervision by state and district task forces for missed vaccinations, identification of high-risk groups/areas, intensified Mission Indradhanush in identified 250 high-risk districts wherein more than 9.5 lakh children and 2.24 lakh pregnant women were vaccinated.
The statement comes a day after the UNICEF and WHO said that the country has the highest number of unvaccinated children worldwide at 3.5 million, amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. As compared with 2019, 3.5 million more children did not receive the first dose of the DPT 1 vaccine around the world, while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose, stated UNICEF and WHO in their reports.