Rubella and measles have both been diseases responsible for high childhood mortality as well as birth defects that are completely irreversible. India has launched one of the world’s largest vaccination campaign against these. Measles affects an estimated 2.5 million children per year and it kills more than 49,000 of these children. CRS, congenital rubella syndrome, which occurs in pregnant women, causes birth defects such as deafness and blindness, both irreversible, in nearly 40,000 children every year.
Recent years have seen India make tremendous efforts in its fight against measles. The ideas was to significantly increase the reach of the first dose of measles vaccine. This dose is given at the age of nine months. The reach increased from 56% back in 2000 to 87% in 2015, under a routine immunization programme. After 2015, the progress has been even steeper. Measles cases in India have dropped significantly by a whopping 43 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
At the forefront of this movement is Geeta Verma, a female health worker from the Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh. In September 2016, Geeta rose to fame and a photo of her went viral on social media as she was riding a motorcycle through the bumpy terrain of the Seraj valley, carrying a vaccination box containing measles rubella (MR) vaccines to Raygarh. She has contributed immensely right from the grass roots for every immunisation campaign launched in remote corners and trekked through treacherous terrains to achieve success in these campaigns. Verma was taking care of campaigns pertaining to the immunization of the children belonging to remote villages of Mandi. This was during the time she was deployed at the health sub-centre of Shakardehra. She painstakingly supplied the vaccines to the Gurjars and shepherd children who reside in makeshift camps in Seraj valley and the areas around the valley which are quite secluded.
This year she has received global recognition after being featured in the World Health Organization (WHO) calendar for 2018. She is being honoured for ensuring a full coverage under the MR programme in her area of operation.
We at Flutur, and people all over India are proud of Geeta, for striving to make this country safe for children from life threatening diseases, and thankful that organizations all over the world are recognizing her merit.
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