Patna, Sept. 23: Around 24 lakh children of Gaya and Aurangabad districts would be immunised against Japanese encephalitis from November 22 following the Centre’s assurance to the state to supply the required number of vaccine vials.
The decision to carry out the vaccination drive was taken after a high-level meeting of the state and the Centre officials at Indian Council of Medical Research in New Delhi on September 14. Acting swiftly, the Union health ministry sent a letter to the state government confirming that it would provide the vaccine for the mass immunisation drive against the deadly disease in the two districts. The state is likely to get 5 lakh vials of the imported vaccine.
Around 100 kids died of deadly brain fever in Gaya and Aurangabad between September and December last year.
The state had been demanding the vaccines for the past several months. Chief minister Nitish Kumar and health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey sought central assistance to tackle the disease each time they visited New Delhi in the recent past.
Sources said the state had demanded vaccines for immunisation drive in seven Japanese encephalitis-prone districts. But the Centre agreed to supply them for the two worst-hit, citing poor stock.
Additional health secretary Rajendra Prasad Ojha said: “We plan to cover 24 lakh children between one and 14 years in the two districts under the immunisation drive. Health workers, accredited social health workers and various NGOs would be roped in for the purpose. The aim is to achieve 100 per cent coverage this time.”
The state health department would be provided with a micro plan to identify the target group for vaccination, he said.
In the past two months, as many as 32 patients suffering from acute encephalitis syndrome were admitted to Anugarah Narayan Medical College and Hospital (ANMCH) in Gaya. Of them, one was confirmed to be suffering from Japanese encephalitis.
“The Japanese encephalitis patient died within few hours of admission,” said Dr Ajoy Kumar Ravi, a senior paeditrician of ANMCH and member of the state task force for Japanese encephalitis prevention.
Experts have been insisting that the disease cannot be rooted out without mass vaccination.
In 2007 and 2009, seven districts, including Gaya, were covered under the Japanese encephalitis mass vaccination drive. “As a result of the rigorous exercise, no case was reported in 2010 from Gaya — the epicentre of the disease,” Ojha said.