New Delhi, Nov 11 (PTI) A group of national and global experts has commended India’s progress on its vaccination programme against measles and rubella, and advised that the campaign should cover the entire country by 2018, the Health Ministry said today.

The government said that at present, 13 states have been covered under the campaign.

“The India Expert Advisory Group on Measles and Rubella (IEAG-MR) after examining the existing strategies and efforts towards measles elimination and … control of rubella during the past two days has concluded that India is on the right track,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The group consisting national and international experts complimented India on the growing trend in MCV (measles containing vaccine) coverage, and the significant reduction in MCV-1st dose and MCV-2nd dose dropout rate which declined from 44 per cent to 13 per cent,” it said.

Measles kills an estimated 49,000 children in India each year, which is about 37 per cent of the global deaths due to this disease, the ministry said.

India has set an ambitious goal to eliminate measles from the country. The measles-rubella vaccine has been introduced in 13 states and plans are to expand it to cover 41 crore children by the end of 2018, the statement said.

“The most recent campaigns in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were reviewed in detail, and the experts complimented the states for their excellent performance and their innovations to achieve very high coverage. The group has recommended to strengthen surveillance for MR and to expand the MR laboratory network,” the ministry said.

The expert group has advised the Centre that the campaign should cover the whole country by 2018.

Secretary for Health Preeti Sudan said, “The country is fully committed to achieve the goal of measles elimination and rubella control to protect children from these diseases.” “The experts commended the strong leadership of the Government of India, as well as the ownership of the state governments to ensure that every child is vaccinated against these two diseases,” it said.

The statement quoted Robert Kezaala of UNICEF as saying, “The UNICEF salutes the Government of India in tackling such a major threat to children’s lives and ensuring their well-being through a combination of campaigns and operation Indradhanush.”

WHO representative Katrina Kretsinger said, “India has shown tremendous leadership on advancing measles elimination and rubella control. It sets an important example globally, demonstrating best practices.”

Jim Goodson from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta said,” Measles surveillance data should continue to be used to identify any areas with children missed by vaccination, thereby contributing to measles elimination efforts in India.”

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.