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To ensure more children get vaccinated against measles, India should build on its polio eradication campaign experience: IMA
March 31st is observed as Indian Medical Association's Measles Immunization Day. Addressing a press conference organized on the occasion, Padma Shri Awardee Dr A Marthanda Pillai - National President and Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal - Honorary Secretary General, IMA in a joint statement said, "India should build on its polio eradication campaign experience to ensure more children get vaccinated against measles. In a single polio vaccine strategy 2.3 million vaccinators should go door-to-door, visiting 191 million homes to vaccinate 172 million children a year."

Co addressing the press was renowned pediatrician Dr. Anupam Sachdeva, Chairman, Pediatrics, Director, Pediatric Hematology Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Institute For Child Health, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Dr. Ajay Gambhir, Head Neonatology & Pediatrics, Saroj Hospital & Heart Institute.

In a joint statement they said, "Measles is still one of the leading causes of death in young children. A highly contagious disease, measles spreads like wildfire in communities where children are unvaccinated. Since the virus reduces immunity, children who have had measles - especially those who are undernourished - may die of pneumonia, diarrhea and encephalitis later on. More than one third of all measles deaths worldwide (around 56, 000 in 2011) are among children in India. Awareness needs to be created about the need and safety of measles vaccination. 4 % of the under five mortality in India is due to measles."

Every year around 3 million cases of measles are seen and about 900,000 children die because of measles around the world. In India everyday, 500 children die because of measles.

All unvaccinated newborns are at danger from measles. Usually children become susceptible to measles around the age of nine months, probably because they are protected up to this period by the antibodies (proteins that protect against a disease) against measles, received from their mothers.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, which spreads through air. Mere sneezing by an infected child in a group of children can easily spread this virus. It spreads so easily that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get it. One can get measles from an infected person who coughs or sneezes around you or even talks to you.

Good news is that safe and effective measles vaccine exists. Because measles is so infectious, a country needs to ensure that at least 95% of all children receive two doses of the vaccine. About 15% of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose, meaning that if only 80% are fully immunized, an outbreak is likely.

"The first dose of measles should be given at the age of 9 months. However, it has been observed that a single dose of Measles is not enough for effective eradication of this disease. Therefore, a second dose against Measles as MMR should be administered at the age of 15 months," Dr Anupam Sachdeva added.

With support from WHO, in November 2010, India launched a massive polio-style measles vaccination project in 14 high-burden states, in a three-phase campaign. The government established a system to ensure that every child who receives a first dose of the vaccine routinely gets a second. They also initiated 'catch-up' campaigns in areas where first-dose coverage was less than 80%.

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