HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Immunisation is a process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine. Vaccines stimulate the body’s immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or disease. When given to a healthy person, the vaccine triggers the immune system to respond and thus build immunity.
“Immunisation is a tool for controlling and eliminating life threatening infectious diseases like tuberculosis, whooping cough, diphtheria, pneumonia, polio, tetanus among others. These diseases are easily under control when children get vaccines against such diseases in a certain time period,” says Dr Tara Nath Pokhrel, Director at Child Health Division at the Ministry of Health and Population.
And it has been proved to be one of the most successful and a cost-effective health interventions that protects one from above mentioned illnesses. One can also be safe from Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and pneumococcal diseases if immunised timely.
According to Nepal Health Demographic Survey-2011, regular immunisation has decreased child mortality by 20 per cent in Nepal.
Types of vaccines
Each disease is different from the other, thus the vaccines administered too are diverse.
For instance, BCG — a vaccine that prevents one from tuberculosis — is given once in a lifetime within a year after a child is born.
DPT-HepB-Hib is another vaccine that prevents a child from acquiring diseases like diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B. And three doses of this vaccine should be given to the infants at six, 10 and 14 weeks of age.
Polio can cause paralysis and death. So, one must immunise infants with three doses of polio vaccines at six, 10 and 14 weeks of age.
Measles is yet another disease which might take one’s life. Therefore, infants must be vaccinated with a single dose of measles vaccination when they are nine months old.
Similarly, infants, pregnant women and any woman of childbearing age should get vaccinations for tetanus. A three-dose course of TT vaccine protects a woman against maternal and neonatal tetanus. A maximum of five doses will protect her throughout her childbearing years.
However, maternal and neonatal tetanus is under control from 2005, as per Dr Pokhrel.
In addition, there is vaccine of JE that prevents one from the attack of Japanese Encephalitis. A single dose of vaccine is given to infants who are 12 to 23 months old.
“All these vaccinations prevent a child from getting diseases for which there are often no medical treatments. These illnesses can result in serious complications and even death. Therefore, every child must get their vaccinations on time,” added Dr Pokhrel.
Join immunisation week
It is parents who are responsible for taking their children to nearby hospitals or health centres and immunise them regularly. But if any child has missed his/her regular vaccine, one can be immunised during the World Immunisation Week celebrated every year in the last week of April all over the world.
Marking the immunisation week, the Child Health Division at the Ministry of Health and Population launched a month-long intensive immunisation programme from mid-April to mid-May in a bid to boost immunisation coverage across the country.
“The programme is targeted to cover all children, including those who have missed their regular vaccines,” informed Dr Pokhrel.
Plans of the government
According to Nepal Demographic Health Survey-2011, 90 per cent children of Nepal were fully immunised by 2011 — about 90 per cent received DPT, 96 per cent children received BCG and 88 per cent received measles vaccination. The study also highlighted that three per cent children were not vaccinated and 10 per cent had received some type of vaccine in their lifetime out of the 10 types currently administered by the government of Nepal.
“And through this immunisation programme, we plan to vaccinate 13 per cent of unreached children,” Dr Pokhrel further revealed adding, “The government is targeting to eradicate measles by 2016.
It is targeting 90 per cent coverage of all immunisation programmes by 2016.”
He also informed that the government has introduced rubella vaccine from this year. As such, along with dose of measles, the children are given rubella vaccine as well. Rubella is a disease similar to measles where small rashes are seen in an infant’s body and they spread quickly all over the body.
“If a pregnant woman suffers from rubella during her first three months of pregnancy, then she might deliver a disabled child because of its effect on the brain, eyes and heart,” said Dr Pokhrel.
The government is also planning to introduce some other vaccines. “Rota virus, a vaccine against diarrhoea is being implemented from 2016,” he added.
“Also, the ministry is working on a strategy to ‘reach every child’ in every VDC. It is also planning to make immunisation sustainable by establishing Immunisation
Trust in the near future and we have been working towards it,” stated Dr Pokhrel.
All these vaccines are available free of cost in every health centre and government hospital of every ward and VDC all over the country.