Rotary’s Role in Rubella & Measles
Ashok Mahajan, Past Rotary International Director & Past Rotary Foundation Trustee | @@twfindia | 13 Jul 2018
Rotary’s Role in Rubella & Measles
Rotarians of India helped create history seven years back. A large, highly populated, diverse country like ours is polio free since January 2011 – a monumental achievement. This incredible success was due to a seamless partnership of Government of India, WHO, UNICEF, CDC, Rotary Foundation, Gates Foundation. Each of these partners excelled in their allotted role.

Rotarians of India are proud of what we have achieved but let me remind you, India is polio free but not the world. Polio Virus, which knows no national boundaries, is active in neighboring countries.

Thus we cannot remain complacent. We have to continue to work hard – perhaps even harder to maintain our status as a polio-free country.

What do we have to do to keep ourselves safe? Recollect the four pillars of polio eradication? The first is National and Sub-national Immunization days. We have to continue to play the same active role in NID and SNID.

The second is outbreak response. Government of India is well geared up for this.

Third is Surveillance of a possible case of polio. WHO has set up a very good system of reporting a case of AFP.

Thus, out of the four pillars, these three pillars are well established and functioning well.

But what about the fourth and the most important pillar ? Routine Immunization. All these years, we seem to have not given the importance to this pivotal pillar. Routine Immunization, has however become the most important way of not only keeping our children free from Polio but also from other diseases. which affect children very commonly.

If every child gets polio vaccine in RI (Routine Immunization), a time will come when NID & SNID will not be necessary. Since last April (2017), the triple polio vaccine is replaced by bivalent polio vaccine – this vaccine, which has been developed in India – has only P1 & P3 type of virus vaccine. P2 is permanently eliminated from world since 1999. Government of India has already introduced injectable polio vaccine to minimize the incidences of vDPV.

The problem however lies in the RI coverage in India. The average was just 68 per cent till last year. Compare this with Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, where the RI coverage is 90 per cent and above. Last year, Government of India launched a special program called Mission Indradhanush to increase the RI coverage. This was followed by a clarion call by Prime Minister Shri Narendraji Modi to raise the coverage to 90 per cent by the end of 2018.

Today, the average coverage has increased to 84 percent. Rotary is an official partner of Govt. of India in increasing and then sustaining the coverage of RI throughout India.

Friends, so now our prime duty is to create awareness of Routine Immunization. There are several areas in urban India where there is a lack of awareness, fear of injection and scare of reaction to RI.

Yes, RI includes not just polio but seven other vaccines, most of which have to be given by injection and does cause transient low fever or rash for a day or so.

Increasing the Routine Immunization coverage will not only keep India polio free but also has a potential to eliminate Tetanus, Rubella, Measles, etc.

‘Rotary India’, has taken up another monumental work.

We will, in the years to come, not only keep India Polio Free – which remains the first and the only mission of Rotary International – but we will also eliminate other diseases from India.

Friends, needless to say that now we have three major goals to be achieved by 2020:

A) Strengthen Routine Immunization System and services

B) Eliminate Measles and control Rubella

C) Maintain Polio-Free status

Measles causes fever, dry cough, rash in children. A few children can land up in complication and even cause death. Over 2.7 million children die of measles every year in the world.

Rubella is also a contagious disease and can cause abortion. It can cause blindness and heart defects in a newborn if mother is affected. It is estimated that 40,000 children are born every year with Rubella complication.
Vaccination can prevent this major problem.

If MR vaccine (Measles and Rubella) is given only two times to children before the age of two year, these diseases can be conquered.

Already, India is on the threshold of bringing these diseases under control. WHO thinks that if Routine Immunization, which includes MR vaccine, coverage is scaled up to 95 per cent in all the districts in India, it is possible to eradicate measles and bring down the rate of Rubella to a manageable level.

It’s a dream for India and let me assure that this dream will come to a reality. Already Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan have controlled these diseases. We can do that too. All we need is a will to do so.

Years of work on polio has brought some major benefits. In our health sector, human resource is trained and can easily be redeployed for injectable vaccines.

Our infrastructure, such as cold chain, transport is in place all over India and the immense experience that we have gathered will stand us through the test of time.

Government and WHO have knowledge of high risk and vulnerable areas. Each and every child in our country gets identified and record of routine immunization is well maintained. Areas of resistance to immunization, areas of low immunization coverage, are well documented. Amitabh Bacchan is a Brand Ambasador for RI. The Government's tag line is ‘7 times in 5 yrs’ i.e. up to the age of 5 yrs, the child has to be taken to health centre for vaccination only 7 times.

Therefore, my Rotarian Friends, Rubella and Measles can be and will be eradicated but Government of India needs our support. Your uncanny knack of creating awareness, minimize resistance, proactive actions and above all selfless volunteerism is unparalleled.

Let us join hands with the government to create history – yet another historical achievement awaits us.

What is needed your commitment - your hands and your heart. Rotary India has given us a clarion call and let us all do the miracle.