India launches first mass encephalitis vaccination

July 25, 2006 10:56

Last year, dying children stood outside hospitals in northern India waiting for an empty bed during one of the worst encephalitis outbreaks in recent memory. Now, they're lining up again for hours in the blazing heat to receive a shot that could save their lives. Since May, nearly 11 million children aged 1 to 15 have been vaccinated against the mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis in high-risk areas of four northern states, US-based nonprofit group PATH said Tuesday. It was the first-ever mass immunization campaign to fight the brain-damaging virus, and many skeptics doubted it would ever happen this fast. But the 2005 outbreak, which killed about 1,800 children and left many survivors permanently disabled with physical and neurological damage, sparked a wave of quick action rarely seen within India's bureaucracy-clogged government.

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