Meghalaya had been setting itself as an example for the rest of the world—first, by being one of the states in India with the lowest number of coronavirus cases per million population and second, by being able to achieve 90% immunization coverage and standing in the second position in terms of national immunization coverage, Telangana being in the first place.
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4, Meghalaya’s Full Immunization Coverage (FIC) between the years 2015-2016 was just 61.4%, which, in just 4 years and the prevailing Covid-19 situation, had increased to 90% in July 2020, as reported by Immunization Dashboard, Immunization Technical Support Unit (ITSU), Immunization Division, MOHFW, and GOI. From being the state with the lowest immunization coverage in the past years, that led to the increase in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), that in turn took the State’s MMR higher than the national average, to becoming the second state with the highest coverage, Meghalaya had marked its victory amidst numerous failures that the whole world is experiencing.
Challenges Faced by the State in Achieving FIC
No success can be achieved without facing challenges. Meghalaya too had faced several challenges to achieve what it has achieved today. As described by Dr. Neelanjan Roy, State Surveillance Medical Officer, WHO- National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP), the challenges that the state faced can be divided into two major categories — “Supply Side” and “Demand Side”.
The Supply Side challenges were: Lack of Medical Officers, Health Supervisors, Auxiliary Nursing Midwifery (ANMs) and ASHAs; lack of suitable infrastructures for conducting routine immunization sessions in some remote areas, areas without proper shelter including non-motorable roads. Various factors also resulted in stock out of vaccines or logistics that could in turn majorly affect the immunization coverage.
The Demand Side challenges were: In some areas across the state, people do not come up to immunize their children on time due to Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) in the past. Lack of awareness and superstitions also make people hesitate towards vaccination.
Capacity building gap, AEFI Apprehension in community, Vaccine acceptance in the community, Low VHSND/ UHSND coverage, Health seeking behaviour, Mobility support for frontline workers, Natural calamities (Garo Hills region), are some of the other highly faced challenges by the state.
- Kerala will invest in training and exporting health workers to boost remittances
- Unlocking India: Is Indian healthcare healthy enough for Covid-19 surge?
Measures Adopted to Achieve 90% Immunization
The remarkable effort of various departments such as the Health departments, Social Welfare, and the involvement of community leaders in routine affairs at community levels, had contributed much to the achievement.
Collection, collation, immunization coverage analysis, holding VNHDs regularly, monitoring of immunization activities, identifying the shortcomings and adopt an adaptive, iterative and a decentralized way of implementation, active participation from religious and community leaders were welcomed to bust the myth regarding immunization, were some of the measures taken to achieve the 90% immunization.
Positive Effects of Immunization Coverage
The increase of the immunization coverage had positively impacted on the issues that were of high concern—the State’s, In fact, Morality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). Diarrheas, pneumonia, Measles, Diphtheria were some of the common diseases that caused deaths of children and infants, which, due to the increase in immunization coverage, had reduced at a noticeable rate. In the same way, infectious diseases that affected the mother or the newborn had also decreased due to the introduction of various effective vaccines for women during their pregnancy period.
- Kerala Health Minister invited to deliver a speech in UN Public Service Day
- America is about to Cut Ties with World Health Organization; Announced President Trump