India to provide four free vaccines, including rotavirus

File photo of Indian children suffering from diarrhoea Diarrhoea from rotavirus kills nearly 80,000 children in India every year

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India will provide four new vaccines free of cost as part of a programme to reduce child mortality, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said.

They include one for rotavirus, which kills thousands of children a year.

The disease causes dehydration and severe diarrhoea. It spreads via contaminated hands and surfaces, and is common in Asia and Africa.

The move brings to 13 the number of free vaccines provided against life threatening diseases.

"The introduction of four new life-saving vaccines will play a key role in reducing childhood and infant mortality and morbidity in the country," Mr Modi said in a statement.

"Many of these vaccines are already available through private practitioners to those who can afford them. The government will now ensure that the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of society, regardless of social and economic status."

The four new vaccines will combat rotavirus, rubella, polio and Japanese encephalitis.

Diarrhoea caused by rotavirus kills nearly 80,000 children each year and results in up to a million hospital admissions in India, the statement said.

Regular outbreaks of encephalitis also kill hundreds of children every year.

A new adult vaccine against Japanese encephalitis will now be introduced in the 179 worst-affected districts in nine states.

Though India was declared polio free in March, it will introduce an injectable polio vaccine to "provide long lasting protection to the population against the virus," the statement said.

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