We're teaming with the Indian government to get lifesaving vaccines to some of their most marginalized communities.
In India, we’re working to get vaccines to children at no cost to their families
Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions, preventing an estimated 2.5 million childhood deaths annually. While the world has made great progress in using vaccines to immunize children against life-threatening disease, in India challenges remain.
Millions of Indian children are not immunized against diseases such as polio, measles, hepatitis, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, even though just a few rounds of vaccine can alleviate unnecessary suffering, disability, and death. And because health costs are a major factor causing households to fall below the poverty threshold, India’s low vaccination numbers mean that countless families will remain mired in poverty for years to come.
Working to raise immunization rates
Saving Children’s Lives Through Immunization, a three-year initiative led by our country program in India, works to increase immunization coverage in Madhya Pradesh, one of India’s largest states. With a largely rural and tribal population, Madhya Pradesh has one of the lowest child immunization rates in India. Supported by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the project uses simple and innovative methods to support the Government of India in providing vaccines at no cost to children who otherwise would not have access to them.
To ensure the availability of good-quality immunization services, we are working not only from the top down but also from the bottom up by giving people information and confidence to access immunization services offered by the government. The project is raising awareness of the importance of vaccination among communities, enabling access to these services by removing cost and logistical barriers, and helping government health workers perform their jobs well. These efforts have already produced results, including improved access to vaccines, widespread adoption of simple practices to ensure efficacy of temperature-sensitive vaccines, and improved service delivery from health care providers. Most importantly, communities in project areas are making vaccination a priority for their children.
A plan to sustain services
We are working closely with the National Rural Health Mission, the flagship health program of the Indian government. The project operates within the existing health system to strengthen immunization service delivery. This will ensure that good-quality immunization services continue long after the Saving Children’s Lives Through Immunization project concludes. Additionally, by mitigating health costs, the project is delivering long-term, sustainable development and antipoverty gains that go beyond the immediate good health of an immunized child.
At the heart of this work is the belief that every person has the right to a life of dignity and good health—and that each child saved due to timely vaccinations is a promise for India’s future.
Photo: Lakshman Anand.