The Immunization Technical Support Unit (ITSU) provides techno-managerial support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) for scaling up the UIP. It has been tasked with enabling systems strengthening and supporting implementation of Multi-Year Strategic Plan for Immunization. Since its inception in 2012, ITSU has been rolling out interventions keeping equity and quality as the central tenet of its program.
Managed by John Snow India Private Limited (JSIPL), ITSU serves as a think tank for strategic planning to innovate, demonstrate and document best practices across the country and facilitate the government in scaling-up the UIP. It also assists all states and union territories (UT) to address coverage, equity and quality related barriers in increasing the reach of India’s immunization program.
According to the World Health Organization, immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and is estimated to avert between 2 and 3 million deaths each year. There is global consensus on immunization being one of the most cost effective interventions that prevents needless suffering through sickness, disability and death.
The benefits of immunization are not restricted to improvement in health and life expectancy alone but also have social and economic impact, at both community and national level. Moreover, an effective, equitable immunization program and its impact on reducing the burden of vaccine preventable diseases (VPD) has potential to contribute immensely to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
According to the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) 5, Full immunization drive among children aged 12–23 months has recorded substantial improvement from 62% to 76% at an all-India level; 11 out of 14 States/Union Territories (UT) have more than three-fourth children aged 12–23 months with fully immunized status with highest numbers in Odisha at 90%.
Government of India’s flagship programs like Mission Indradhanush launched in 2015 have helped push forward the immunization agenda. On comparing NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 data, increase in full immunization coverage has been observed to be on track in many states and UTs. Over 50% Phase-II States/ UTs achieved over 10 percentage points in a short span of four years. This is despite the impact of COVID-19 on immunization campaigns and programs which have seen a reduction in both coverage and number of vaccines administered due to lockdown restrictions, shortage of health workers, and resource diversion to address the pandemic.
However, to achieve full immunization status, several aspects need to be addressed. The impact of scientific and programmatic research has to be strengthened so it can support policy decisions. Vaccine hesitancy on account of prevailing superstitions, myths and misinformation must be overcome.