According to the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, "Approximately 27 million children are born in India each year – the largest birth cohort in the world – but less than 44% receive a full schedule of vaccinations." Moreover, Indian researchers stated, "Although India is a leading producer and exporter of vaccines, the country is home to one-third of the world’s unimmunized children... India’s vaccine deficit has several causes: little investment by the government; a focus on polio eradication at the expense of other immunizations; and low demand as a consequence of a poorly educated population and the presence of anti-vaccine advocates."
Our own staff members sometimes talk about their young relatives in villages who died of a "fever" of unknown origin. Measles? Hepatitis? Don't know.
Although vaccinations can be controversial, they save lives and prevent the spread of potentially life-threatening diseases. The Gates Foundation stated, "Vaccines save millions of lives a year and are among the most cost-effective health interventions ever developed. Immunization has led to the eradication of smallpox, a 74 percent reduction in childhood deaths from measles over the past decade, and the near-eradication of polio. Despite these great strides, there remains an urgent need to reach all children with life-saving vaccines."
Most of our kids at Karunya Mane, who are all from the streets and slums, were not vaccinated during their early months and years of life. Even if they may have been, their moms (if they have a mom) have no immunization records. Part of effort to provide our kids with the basic needs is to ensure that they are all properly vaccinated.
We've tried to take our kids to the government children's hospital for free vaccinations but to no avail -- possibly because our kids may be older than tiny-tot age so don't qualify. Vaccines in India are less expensive than in the Western world, but still cost a bit, especially when vaccinating 40+ kids, and we estimate that it costs around $200 to fully vaccinate a child.
|little Jyothi and mom Lakshmi in early 2008|
Most of our kids cry a bit when they see the needle, but not too much. Two of our tough little ones, Jyothi and Umesh, don't even react when getting their shots!
Volunteer doctors and nurses generously donate their time to vaccinate our kids at Karunya Mane, such as Dr. Miguel Valenzuela, who gave his time when he was in Mysore for yoga classes. We're almost complete with catch-up vaccinations for most of our kids, but if you'd like to make a donation to help cover these costs, please do so at http://operation-shanti.org/donate.html.
Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (see http://www.cddep.org/blog/posts/india’s_vaccination_problem_cddep_director_weighs_nature_and_health_affairs); Ramanan Laxminarayan and Nirmal Kumar Ganguly (see http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/6/1096.abstract); Gates Foundation (see http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/Vaccine-Delivery).