Concerned about the large number of encephalitis deaths in the country, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Tuesday asked officials to target 100 percent immunization of children.The health minister said the drive to eradicate encephalitis should replicate the Pulse Polio campaign.The minister's remarks came after the death of 44 children in six districts of Bihar over the past fortnight, but he was also concerned over the annual death toll in adjoining Uttar Pradesh which is in the 500-600 range, a release said here Tuesday."I am extremely distressed at the runaway conquest of encephalitis and it is high time extraordinary steps are taken to stymie it," Harsh Vardhan said.
"I have asked officials to work in tandem with their counterparts in the states to identify the most vulnerable districts within a day and the actual immunization will take place June 22 and 23."The decision was taken after a high level meeting attended by Minister of State for Rural Development Upendra Kushwaha and senior health officials from various states."I don't want this to be a purely government exercise. We must involve the voluntary sector, Indian Medical Association, religious organisations doing social work, even school children to ensure that all children are brought to the immunization centres," Vardhan said.
The minister stressed on the need for surveillance also.The ultimate objective is to prevent disease occurrence by early diagnosis, implementation of effective control measures and high vaccine coverage with strong and active surveillance system, he said."I am giving full authority to all concerned to go on overdrive. We must have a total immunization campaign for encephalitis in the affected districts," he said.