People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 13

April 05, 2009

 



SAVE UNIVERSAL IMMUNISATION PROGRAMME

C S Rex Sargunam



THE universal immunisation programme (UIP) has been a health shield for 2.6 crore children born in India every year. In the first year of life, children are given BCG, Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) and Measles vaccines. As a part of National Immunisation Schedule (NIS), pregnant mothers are given Tetanus Toxoid (TT) and children are given DPT and OPV at one and a half and four and a half years and TT at ten and fifteen years. Because of this our children are completely free from deadly infectious diseases like Polio, a crippler, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough and Tetanus. They have also been drastically reduced in mothers after delivery and in new borns. BCG has almost completely eliminated TB meningitis (Brain TB) and controlled TB in children.

BCG Vaccine Lab (BCGVL), Guindy, Pasteur Institute of India (PII), Coonoor and Central Research Institute (CRI), Kausali, are public sectors units that were meeting the immunisation needs of our children. The entire requirement of BCG in our country was supplied by BCGVL to government of India, free of cost. BCG is also being exported to developing countries. PII and CRI were supplying more than 60 per cent of requirement of DPT, TT and DT (Diphtheria and Tetanus Vaccine) to government of India at a very subsidised price.

Now the government of India is completely scuttling UIP and NIS. The Health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss’s reply in the parliament on February 18, 2009 and subsequent order dated March 12, 2009 has confirmed the Health ministry’s decision of January 15, 2008 to suspend the licenses of BCGVL, PII and CRI and stop the production of the essential vaccines. The ‘Save Children Movement’ consisting of an umbrella of organisations formed at the initiation of Tamilnadu Health Development Association (TNHDA) has been campaigning against this dangerous decision through pamphlets, posters, signature campaign, human chains and giving memorandum to the prime minister and the chief minister of Tamilnadu and so on. The Tamilnadu state committee of CPI(M) held a convention on this issue which was addressed by the Doctors from this movement apart from the leaders of the Party in 2008.

A special convention “Save UIP” was held on March 14, 2009 in Chennai that was attended by people from various walks of life and addressed by eminent doctors Professor Jacob John, virologist and vaccinologist, Professor R Prabhakar, former director, TRC, Dr P Chandra, social pediatrician, Viswanathan, FMRAI and members of parliament T K Rangarajan, CPI(M) and K Malaichamy (AIADMK).

A resolution was passed unanimously to restore the production of BCG, DPT, DT and TT in BCGVL, PII and CRI and upgrade them to comply with WHO’s good manufacturing practices and to also include production of Polio and Measles vaccines in the three public sector units.

The crux of the whole issue is that all our children were fully immunised by the government because of the contribution made by these three PSUs. Since the government has stopped this and privatised the vaccine production, there is a danger of a come back of vaccine preventable diseases as nearly 80 per cent of population’s per capita income is Rs 20 a day and they cannot afford immunisation through private sources. A PIL is under the consideration of apex court on this issue. A united and mighty struggle by the people would reverse this scenario and as Manmohan Singh’s government is inimical to our children, people should vote it out in the coming parliamentary general election to save our children and their future.