Vaccination Win: Tetanus 'Virtually Eliminated' in India

Christine Rousselle
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Posted: Aug 31, 2015 3:30 PM
Vaccination Win: Tetanus 'Virtually Eliminated' in India

Having been born and raised in the United States, my only experience with anything to do with tetanus involved a quick trip to the doctor's office for a shot after stepping on something that may have been rusty. For people in India, however, tetanus is a very dangerous and real thing that killed thousands of people, mostly babies, each year. Now, thanks to increased vaccination and public hygiene programs, tetanus in the country has been "virtually eliminated."

From the New York Times:

India has reduced cases to less than one per 1,000 live births, which the W.H.O. considers “elimination as a public health problem.” The country succeeded through a combination of efforts.

In immunization drives, millions of mothers received tetanus shots, which also protect babies for weeks.

Mothers who insisted on giving birth at home, per local tradition, were given kits containing antibacterial soap, a clean plastic sheet, and a sterile scalpel and plastic clamp for cutting and clamping the cord.

The country also created a program under which mothers were paid up to $21 to give birth in a clinic or hospital. “Lady health workers” from their neighborhoods were paid up to $9 per mother and up to $4 for bus or taxi fare to make sure women in labor went to clinics. The workers earned the full amount only after visiting each baby at home and giving tuberculosis shots.

This is great news. Tetanus is a deadly disease that is simple to protect. While it can never be totally and completely eradicated (as the bacteria that causes the illness is found in soil), it's great that these programs exist to prevent women and children from dying.

It's also a huge wake-up call as to how lucky Americans are to have access to the medical care that we do. Tetanus is not something that Americans have to worry about on a daily basis--certainly not during childbirth. Vaccines save lives--and in India, they're saving two at once.