Health authorities are all set to roll out the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in Darjeeling district from 3 November.
The Centre on Friday launched the nationwide expansion drive for the Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). It is for the first time in the country that the PCV would be available for universal use. Pneumonia and diarrhoea are two major causes of deaths among children, and pneumonia is among the leading causes of death among children under five years of age globally.
The UIP is one of the largest public health programmes, targeting close to 26.7 million newborns and 29 million pregnant women annually. The countrywide expansion drive of the PCV was launched a few years after its introduction in Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
The vaccine is meant for children aged between six weeks and nine months. The vaccine protects children against diseases like pneumonia and meningitis. “Children from six weeks of age group will receive the vaccines from immunisation centres from 3 November in the district, and at the time when they will get the first dose of polio, rotavirus, pentavalent vaccine and other routine vaccines,” said the district chief medical officer of health Dr Pralay Acharya.
Sources said the district had received 2,500 vaccine doses, which are far from adequate. The training of grassroots-level health workers, including accredited social health activists, Anganwadi workers, auxiliary nurse midwife workers, general nursing and midwifery workers, and also doctors, for the administration of the PCV has been conducted, health department officials said.
A senior official of the department said children would be given their first shot when they are six weeks old, second at 14 weeks and the final booster dose at nine months. The PCV targets the pneumococcal bacterium, which causes pneumonia and other serious life-threatening diseases such as meningitis and sepsis. It can help restrict infant mortality, doctors said.