Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine Scale-up in India

November 10th, 2023 | Viewpoint


Globally, pneumococcal pneumonia is the leading killer of children and adults; in India it is the leading cause of death in children under 5 years. As World Pneumonia Day (November 12) approaches, we reflect on the benefits that the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) has had in India.

In 2017, based on recommendations from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) Government of India (GoI) decided to begin the roll out of PCV. Initially, the vaccine was rolled out in five high burden states. By October 2021, the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) in India hit a milestone by expanding PCV across the remaining 31 states and union territories, in a record seven months. This incredible feat was possible because of strong political commitment; availability of an affordable indigenous vaccine; development and implementation of training and digital tools; and enthusiastic support from various partners.

Map of PCV expansion phases in India between 2017-2021
PCV expansion phases in India between 2017-2021

As the lead technical partner, JSI India provided technical support to the national and state governments to ensure smooth PCV implementation within planned timelines and integration of PCV into the routine immunization program. JSI India also helped the MoHFW to conduct post-introduction monitoring, report coverage, and document lessons.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic challenged PCV expansion. Restrictions on movement hindered vaccine shipments, and engagement of staff in COVID control activities and COVID vaccination campaigns stretched the system. There were also restrictions in conducting in-person training for the roll-out of PCV. However, this did not stop the JSI India team and other partners from supporting the government in scaling up PCV across the country, and overcoming all of these challenges through the below mitigation strategies.

Chart of Mitigation strategies that overcame PCV expansion challenges during COVID-19
Mitigation strategies that overcame PCV expansion challenges during COVID-19

From the time that PCV was introduced and August 2023, 164 million doses have been administered, preventing an estimated 50,000 deaths in children under 5, each year. JSI has long worked to strengthen health services for children, building capacity to implement integrated community case management of childhood diseases, including deadly pneumonia, and we will not stop here.

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