2021 in numbers: Infant, child vaccinations dropped 15% in May compared to 2019

Updated on Dec 28, 2021 04:04 PM IST

Data suggests that India’s immunisation programme was largely on track this year. However, the drop in May this year and in several months of 2020 suggests some of the increase in 2021 could also be due to delayed vaccinations

A health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a national Pulse Polio Immunisation (PPI) programme at a Urban Primary Health Centre at Heritage street in August 2021. (HT File Photo/Sameer Sehgal) PREMIUM
A health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a national Pulse Polio Immunisation (PPI) programme at a Urban Primary Health Centre at Heritage street in August 2021. (HT File Photo/Sameer Sehgal)
ByAbhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the Covid-19 disease, have been at the centre of attention for the last one year. However, this is not the only virus against which human beings need vaccines. There are a host of other viruses which require early childhood immunisation and these likely suffered during 2020. Data shows that while they have recovered in 2021, it is possible that some immunisation doses were delayed.

Here are two charts that show this.

The Health Management Information System (HMIS) of the National Health Mission gives the number of infant and child vaccinations taking place under India’s universal immunisation programme from over 200,000 health facilities.

While this is not the total number of such vaccinations taking place in India – the facilities that report to HMIS are largely government ones in rural areas – it is a good indicator of trends in vaccinations. HT has tabulated all vaccinations under India’s universal immunisation programme (https://bit.ly/3z6j1qU) reported by the HMIS, according to its website’s update on December 26, 2021.

This shows that 469 million children were vaccinated in 2020, 2.4% more than in 2019. However, there was a big drop in infant and child immunisation in the March-July period, which coincided with a harsh lockdown.

Data for 2021 is available only up to May. A January-May comparison shows that there were 193.2 million vaccinations this year, 9.6% more than in 2020, and 9.2% more than in 2019. However, there was a 15% drop in vaccinations in May 2021 compared to May 2019, the month when the second wave of Covid-19 infections peaked this year.

This data suggests that India’s immunisation programme was largely on track this year. However, the drop in May this year and in several months of 2020 suggests some of the increase in 2021 could also be due to delayed vaccinations. Moreover, HMIS has not published the number of hospitals reporting to the system since last year. This number can vary from month to month as well as between years. Therefore, only hospital statistics give a truly accurate picture of the trend in vaccinations, which cannot be calculated without the number of reporting hospitals being published.

The immunisation programme was also not on track this year for all kinds of vaccinations. January-May infant vaccinations of BCG (protects against tuberculosis), polio, pentavalent (a combination of five vaccines that protects against diphtheria, pertussis, and others), and measles were lower in 2021 than in 2019. Infant vaccinations are ones that are given up to 1 year of age. Child vaccinations, given after 1 year of age, were less than 2019 levels this year in January-May for polio and measles.

 

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Abhishek Jha is a data journalist. He analyses public data for finding news, with a focus on the environment, Indian politics and economy, and Covid-19.

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