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Have Any Questions About the Govt’s New Measles Rubella Vaccine? A Paediatrician Answers.

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Dr. Suruchi Goyal Agarwal, a consultant paediatrician and endocrinologist at Columbia Asia Hospital in Bengaluru, explains all about the new Measles Rubella vaccine.

The Government of India has recently launched one of the largest vaccination drives in the world aimed at eradication measles.

Background:

Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr

Measles is a viral infection that affects 2.5 million children in India each year, and approximately 49,000 children succumb to this illness.

In the past few years, measles vaccination was offered as part of the routine immunisation at nine months and 15 months in the government immunisation program. As the uptake of these vaccines increased, we saw a decreasing trend of the infection. In time, however, and due to several reasons, the vaccine uptake reduced with us now seeing many more children affected by it. Our aim now is eradication of the disease.

Now, for the first time, the government has introduced the measles vaccination in combination with rubella. It then aims to have the combined measles-rubella vaccination as a part of the national immunisation schedule.

Many parents who opt to vaccinate their children in a private setup usually have them administered the combined measles-mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination at nine months, 15 months and 5 years. The drive is aimed at these children too.

The Drive:

The MR vaccination drive has been rolled out in stages and Karnataka is one of the first states where this has commenced. The first phase began on February 7 and is expected to run till February 28. It will then be rolled out to the entire country. It is aimed at children between the ages of nine months and 15 years, and the goal is to vaccinate every child safely against the two diseases. Over the next two years the aim is for every child in the country to be protected

The vaccination is being administered at government centres and Anganwadis, and several private schools are also a part of it.

What does the vaccine contain?

Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr

The MR vaccine consists of a live attenuated virus of both the diseases. Attenuation is a process where the disease-causing ability of the virus is destroyed, but the virus is still kept alive. When such a virus is injected into the body it provokes a response from our own immune system producing antibodies and memory cells. When in future the actual virus attacks the body these cells and antibodies are ready, thus preventing disease. It is administered as an injection.

Side Effects:

MR vaccine can cause a fever, rash and vomiting. This can be managed with simple fever control medications like Paracetamol. The rash is generally mild and fades in a couple of days.

The current drive is safe and administration of the vaccine is done by trained professionals.

The drive is for all kids aged nine months to 15 years irrespective of their previous immunisation status. That means, it can be given to a child who has recently received the vaccination even if less than 4 weeks ago

The main contraindications are an unwell child with high fever and a previous history of an allergic reaction to the vaccine and its components.

If there are any concerns regarding the vaccine please speak to your paediatrician and take their advice rather than refusing the vaccination. Eradication of this potentially severe and fatal illness is a step further for better health of our future generations.

Know more about the vaccine here.

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