Children should be vaccinated against measles and there should be more awareness programmes if many parents are not sending their kids for vaccination, a doctor who worked in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to prevent a measles outbreak said on Friday.
Ratan Chandra Kar, an alumnus of NRS Medical College and Hospital, who had successfully tackled a measles outbreak among the Jarawa tribes in 1999, said measles was a “deadly disease”.
It can lead to complications like encephalitis, meningitis and neurological diseases, which could turn fatal, he said.
A special vaccination programme against measles and rubella, which started in January, did not elicit the expected response in Kolkata. Coverage in the city has been far less than in the rest of the state.
An official of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), which is conducting the drive in Kolkata, said about 67 per cent of those eligible were vaccinated till Thursday. The programme will be on till February 21 in Kolkata. All children between nine months and 15 years are eligible to take the single-shot vaccine. There are about 12 lakh children in Kolkata eligible for the special dose, said a state health department official.
Across Bengal, 90.7 per cent of children had been vaccinated till Thursday since the special vaccination drive started on January 9.
“There is no reason for children to not take the vaccine. It will provide significant protection against measles, which is a deadly disease. Measles could lead to complications like encephalitis and meningitis, which could turn fatal,” Kar said on the sidelines of the 150 years celebrations of NRS hospital, organised by former students of the college.
“There should be more awareness programmes to tell people about the benefits of the vaccination if parents are not sending their wards for the shot,” he said.
Kar was awarded the Padma Shri in 2023 for his contribution to medicine. Doctors said he was instrumental in tackling the measles outbreak among Jarawa tribes.
“The outbreak happened in September and October 1999. By then, the Jarawas had begun to trust me. I admitted more than 100 of them to a local hospital. All of those who came to the hospital were cured and sent back,” Kar said.
He said he had started working with people from the Jarawa tribe in November 1998. “I respected their way of life but had convinced them that if something serious happened, they have to get admitted to hospitals,” he said.
A common vaccine against measles and rubella is given for free from government-run healthcare establishments as part of the universal vaccination programme of India. This was made part of the programme only a few years ago.
Children who take the shot from private hospitals or clinics can buy a combined vaccine that protects against mumps, measles and rubella, said doctors.