COVID-19 or the novel Coronavirus has crept into the narrative of new “normal”. It has turned the world upside down. Before the advent of COVID-19, structural disadvantage had a deep imprint in our society. But we cannot deny the fact that COVID-19 has further exacerbated the problems. And problems do not exist in isolation; hence, this interlink sometimes possesses a great challenge.
While the primary focus is laid on a vaccine for the Coronavirus, we are losing sight of some important issue. One of the problems is that of vaccine-preventable disease (VPDs) or immunisation of children against diseases like measles. Even the scenario before COVID-19 was satisfactory at best.
The National Statistical Organisation (NSO) report, which is based on National Sample Survey (July 2017–June 2018) on household social consumption related to health clearly shows 40% of children are not fully vaccinated. This picture gets more worrisome when data is contradicted. For instance, The Health Management Information System Portal data claim full immunisation coverage for 2017-2018 was at 86.7%, whereas the NSO report shows only 59.2% of children under 5 years of age are fully immunised.
We are fleetingly familiar with how data is manipulated, but at the heart of this issue is the scenario of immunisation in the times of COVID-19. And worryingly, we have developed a paranoia to visit health care centres or come in contact with health care workers. Moreover, in India, there are many places where in normal circumstances, immunisation was below the optimal. Hence, the grave concern is meeting the routine immunisation without missing any of the vaccines. Diseases like Polio must remain a history.
As predicted by The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), India is expected to have the highest births, 20.1 million since the pandemic was declared. The newborn babies are to be vaccinated. But when it comes to maintaining routine immunisation, it presents a dismal picture, reflecting an interrupt in the routine. Delays in the vaccine have a huge impact on children’s health. To meet this challenge, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indian Academy of Paediatricians have issued guidelines. Also, it is highly recommended to protect the known disease, which if occurred might add to the current health crisis.
With new challenges looming, we have to come up with a new solution. “One-size fits all” solution sometimes does not work in a diverse country like India. From guidelines designed by the WHO to health workers rigorous work, India is trying to cope by subsequently fashioning to adjust in the new normal. But these unprecedented times demand out of the box solutions. Hence, making more people aware of the guidelines issued by WHO can act as a solution.
Considering appropriate measures against the Coronavirus, parents should make sure their children do not miss any vaccine. Therefore, it is essential to orient parents and family members regarding the changes in delivering vaccine services. Here, the media can act as a bridge to fill the gap. We are showered with a lot of news which is unfortunately not from credible sources. This demands creating awareness regarding the use of technology safely.
Informed citizens can do their part in creating awareness. It is appreciated to cross-check information. Now, this begs the question: As a citizen, are we willing to move out of our comfort zone and try to contribute to the solution rather than blaming the system?