Even after not getting financial aid from the state government, the Pune district’s social welfare department went on to vaccinate 17,000 teenage girls from Zilla Parishad schools with Rubella vaccine with the help of various district-based NGOs to prevent disabilities in their to-be-born children.
In an unprecedented move, the department had started the vaccination scheme a year ago and became the first and the only district in the state to conduct such a scheme. However, due to lack of funds from the state government officials decided to prioritise the scheme only for the girls from Class VII to X , studying in ZP schools.
“We sent a letter to the State Health Ministry in November last year asking them to approve the scheme so that it can run smoothly without financial difficulties. To our surprise, in February this year we received an approval letter from the state government with the condition that the programme be conducted under the state government’s Directorate of Health Services,” said social welfare officer Sanjay Kadam.
According to documents available with the social welfare department there are over 1.5 lakh teenage girls in the district that are yet to receive the Rubella vaccine.
“The Zilla Parishad finally approved a budget of Rs 50 lakh for the scheme in February this year. With this we can now reach girls in private schools in the district. However this is not enough if we want to reach all women in the age group12-39 years,” added Kadam.
Timely immunisation before pregnancy against rubella can save the newborn child from congenital deformities such as blindness, deafness, retarded mental growth and heart problems; therefore it’s essential for girls between in age group 12-39 years to get vaccinated.
“Noticing the increase in disabilities in newborns in the past few years due to changing lifestyles, we want to reach each and every girl in the district and administer Rubella vaccine. However, with limited funds we are only on an awareness drive in private schools and colleges in the district,” said senior researcher of KEM Hospital Research Center.