Most deaths in children below 5 years of age can be prevented by vaccination. Every year, India accounts for 21% deaths among children due to vaccine-preventable diseases.
World Health Organization (WHO) has called for renewed efforts to 'close the immunization gap' and reach to all the children in the world during the world immunization week.
In India, the Union government launched Mission Indradhanush, which aims to immunize all children in the country for the seven most common vaccine preventable diseases - diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B - by 2020.
"Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) has pledged all its support in this mission. In fact, we would want more such initiatives to be taken on a public-private partnership basis," said Dr Pravin Mehta, IAP general secretary. He said that India's successful eradication of polio was a shining example of how different agencies could come together and make things happen.
Dr. Mehta added that diarrhea and pneumonia, the two biggest killers among young children, were still not under the national immunization program making it a cause for concern.
"In the last few years, we have taken up advocacy on vaccination, having provided the government with data and evidence that led to them taking up rubella vaccination nationally. We have also been able to convince them to switch over from oral to intra-muscular polio vaccine. I hope we can do the same for preventing deaths due to diarrhea and pneumonia," he said.
He added that with only 15% vaccination in the country happening through private practitioners, it was a necessity to have a robust national immunization program for kids.
Hilleman Laboratories, the global vaccine research and development organization has extended its formulations to other vaccine makers to help close the immunization gap in India. The thermostable formulation offers longer stability of vaccine even in varying temperature across diverse environmental conditions.
Dr. Davinder Gill, CEO, Hilleman Laboratories said, "India is the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines but it is sad that the country has the largest number of non-immunized children at close to 7 million. The current state of immunization in the country is quite heterogeneous, with different states having achieved varying levels of protection through vaccination."
He added that the major challenges to universal immunization in India were accessibility and affordability. "Besides, lack of trained manpower, infrastructure and well-equipped logistics hinder effective implementation of full coverage plans," said Dr. Gill.