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Daily-current-affairs / 02 May 2024

Fortifying Public Health: The Evolution and Imperatives of Immunization in India: Daily News Analysis



The advent of immunization has marked a pivotal chapter in the annals of public health, epitomizing humanity's triumph over devastating diseases. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1974, it's a momentous occasion to reflect on the remarkable strides made in global health, particularly in India. The EPI's inception coincided with the brink of eradicating the smallpox virus, heralding a concerted effort to expand vaccine benefits worldwide. India, embracing this initiative in 1978 and subsequently renaming it the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) in 1985, embarked on a journey towards safeguarding its populace against preventable diseases.

The Journey of Immunization:

Over the past five decades, the landscape of immunization has undergone a profound transformation, evolving from a modest arsenal against six diseases to a formidable defense shield encompassing vaccines against 13 universally recommended diseases and 17 context-specific pathogens. This monumental progress underscores humanity's collective endeavor to mitigate the burden of preventable illnesses. Notably, the coverage of essential vaccines, exemplified by the three doses of DPT, has surged globally, culminating in a substantial reduction in morbidity and mortality rates. Smallpox stands vanquished, while polio teeters on the brink of global eradication, emblematic of the efficacy of immunization initiatives.

India's trajectory mirrors this global narrative of triumph over affliction, with immunization coverage witnessing a steady ascent, reaching 76% among children in the period spanning 2019-2021. This commendable achievement reflects the concerted efforts of policymakers, healthcare professionals, and grassroots workers in advancing public health agendas. Moreover, economic analyses underscore the cost-effectiveness of vaccination programs, illuminating the profound dividends reaped by prudent investments in preventive healthcare.

Challenges and Opportunities:

Amidst these triumphs, however, lurk persistent challenges that demand urgent attention. The UNICEF's revelation of a decline in childhood immunization coverage in 2021 serves as a sobering reminder of the fragility of progress achieved. Alarmingly, millions of children remain devoid of essential vaccines, underscoring the imperative to address existing inequities in access and coverage. In India, despite commendable strides, geographical disparities and socio-economic differentials continue to mar the equitable distribution of vaccines, necessitating targeted interventions to bridge these divides.

Expanding the Scope:

A paradigm shift beckons in the realm of immunization, transcending the confines of childhood-focused initiatives to embrace a life-course approach. While children remain a cornerstone of vaccination efforts, the burgeoning burden of vaccine-preventable diseases among adults and the elderly mandates a recalibration of immunization policies. Embracing this imperative, the recent foray into HPV vaccination for teenage girls marks a pivotal step towards broadening immunization horizons. However, the onus lies on policymakers to heed the clarion call for extending vaccine coverage to encompass all age demographics.

Addressing Hesitancy and Building Awareness:

Central to this endeavor is the imperative to confront prevailing myths and misconceptions surrounding vaccines, which fuel hesitancy and undermine confidence in immunization. Harnessing the prowess of professional communication agencies and leveraging social media platforms, governments can mount robust campaigns to dispel misinformation and foster a culture of informed decision-making. Furthermore, healthcare providers, bolstered by professional associations and academic institutions, must assume a proactive role in disseminating accurate information and engendering trust in vaccination.


As we reflect on the 50-year journey of the Expanded Programme on Immunization, India stands at a crossroads, poised to script the next chapter in its immunization saga. The successful pilot initiative of adult BCG vaccination, coupled with the burgeoning awareness catalyzed by COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, heralds a promising era of adult immunization. By embracing a holistic approach that addresses the needs of zero-dose children, tackles existing inequities, and extends vaccine coverage to adults and the elderly, India can fortify its defenses against the scourge of preventable diseases. Let us seize this opportune moment to elevate the Expanded Programme on Immunization to the status of an 'Essential Program on Immunization,' safeguarding the health and well-being of generations to come.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

1.    Despite significant advancements in immunization coverage, persistent challenges threaten to undermine public health gains. Analyze the key factors contributing to the decline in childhood immunization coverage globally and suggest policy measures to address these challenges, with a specific focus on India.

2.    The shift towards a life-course approach in immunization policies heralds a new era in public health governance. Discuss the rationale behind extending vaccine coverage to encompass all age demographics and elucidate the potential benefits and challenges associated with this paradigm shift, particularly in the context of India's Universal Immunization Programme.

Source – The Hindu