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50 years of immunization in India: Progress and future

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Immunization is one of the most cost effective public health interventions and largely responsible for reduction of under-5 mortality rate. However, vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) are still responsible for over 5 lakh deaths annually in India. This underlines the need of further improvement. Today, India is a leading producer and exporter of vaccines, still the country is home to one-third of the world’s unimmunized children. There are a number of reasons why India lags behind its many less developed neighbors in vaccination rates. They include huge population with relatively high growth rate, geographical diversity and some hard to reach populations, lack of awareness regarding vaccination, inadequate delivery of health services, inadequate supervision and monitoring, lack of microplanning and general lack of inter-sectoral coordination, and weak VPD surveillance system. In this article, we discuss some of the remedial measures to remove obstacles and improve immunization status of the country. Heightened political and bureaucratic will, increasing demand for vaccination by using effective Information, education and communication (IEC), creating more ‘delivery points’ for routine immunization, proper monitoring of the program, and changing overall objective of the program from merely targeting coverage to more meaningful monitoring of the ‘VPD reduction’ and ‘demand creation’ referred as the ‘output’ of entire vaccination program. Successful AFP surveillance network should serve as platform for an efficient integrated disease surveillance system. AEFI and postmarketing surveillance systems should be urgently upgraded, and there is need of strengthening the regulatory capacity of the country. Restructuring of EPI with induction of some new vaccines, clear-cut guidelines on the policy of introduction of newer vaccines, and establishing a separate, independent department of public health are few other areas that need urgent attention.

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Correspondence to Vipin M. Vashishtha.

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Vashishtha, V.M., Kumar, P. 50 years of immunization in India: Progress and future. Indian Pediatr 50, 111–118 (2013).

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