Fight measles with right information: MoHFW, UNICEF hold two-day national media workshop
Media professionals from across India discuss ways to address vaccine hesitancy and counter misinformation around measles and rubella
MUMBAI, 16 December 2022 – Over 60 media professionals from all over India attended a two-day workshop to discuss the critical role of media in creating awareness on Routine Immunization and on the Measles and Rubella vaccination.
The ‘Media Workshop on Measles, Rubella and Routine Immunization’ organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in partnership with UNICEF, is being held in the backdrop of an increased numbers of measles cases being reported from certain districts of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra, lately.
In all such geographies, the affected children missed out on their routine immunization for varied reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Veena Dhawan, Additional Commissioner (Immunization), MoHFW, apprised the participants on the symptoms of measles, prevention and cure of the life-threatening disease. She encouraged them to engage communities and local influencers to address vaccine hesitancy and counter misinformation and cultural myths around measles.
“Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses but is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. States have launched catch-up campaigns to prevent a backslide on routine immunization coverages, and media has always been a strong partner in the country’s health initiatives,” said Dr Dhawan.
“Media’s role in supporting elimination of measles is critical. We need to come together to educate communities and encourage them to get their children immunized for measles as well as for all vaccines covered under the Universal Immunization Programme,” she added.
Ms. Smita Vats Sharma, Additional Director General, Western Region, Press Information Bureau, said that media can access the PIB website and various social media platforms of the Bureau, especially PIB Fact-check, for authentic information and to counter misinformation.
In context of the growing number of measles cases across some states, the MoHFW has advised administration of one additional dose of Measles and Rubella Containing Vaccine (MRCV) to all children of 9 months to 5 years in vulnerable areas. This dose would be in addition to the primary vaccination schedule of first dose at 9-12 months and second dose at 16-24 months.
MoHFW has also advised one dose of MRCV to be administered to all children aged 6 months and up to less than 9 months in areas where the measles cases in the age group of less than 9 months are above 10 per cent of the total measles cases.
Decline in vaccine coverage, weakened measles surveillance, and continued interruptions and delays in immunization activities due to COVID-19, has caused a resurgence in measles globally, and not just in India.
Dr Ashish Chauhan, Health Specialist, UNICEF India, said, “Measles is a ‘tracer’ of strength of the immunization system. When immunization coverage is low, measles is the fastest vaccine preventable disease to return.”
Dr Chauhan said there was an “urgent need to plan towards increasing the uptake of vaccination through social mobilization and addressing vaccine hesitancy.”
Addressing the participants, Alka Gupta, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India, said, “As media professionals, you have the power to create awareness among your audiences with fact-based messages on immunization that shape attitudes and contribute to behavioural change. Immunization is a lifesaving intervention for children and impacts their overall health and development. Stories that cover health and development must include focus on immunization. Positive stories from most vulnerable communities amplified by media can motivate others to vaccinate their children.”
The workshop brought together well-known media professionals including Smita Vats Sharma, ADG, PIB (Maharashtra and Goa), Pankaj Pachauri, Media Editor, GO News, Sanjay Abhigyan, Former Executive Editor, Amar Ujala (Dehradun), and Dr M.H. Ghazali, Editor UNN and SAWM network members
Health experts including Dr Paresh Kantharia and Dr Meeta, Surveillance Medical Officers, WHO, Dr Arun Kumar Maruti Gaikwad, AHO, Expanded Programme on Immunization, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and Dr S Shukla, Director Immunization, NHM, Government of Madhya Pradesh too addressed the participants and their queries.
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