Whinsley Masara and Auxilia Katongomara Chronicle Reporters—
A BOY, 3, from Jotsholo in Matabeleland North died following a suspected allergic reaction to the measles and rubella vaccines and a Vitamin A supplementation dose administered on him on Wednesday. Bongetha Moyo was one of the more than five million children targeted under a five-day nationalvaccination campaign that commenced on September 28 and ended yesterday.
His mother Vezokuhle Ndlovu, 24, of Hlalani village, under Chief Menyezwa said her child had been perfectly healthy before she took him for immu-nisation. “My son was not suffering from anything before he was immunised on Wednesday. He had been a healthy boy.
“I took him for immunisation at Dongamuzi Clinic at around 11AM on the Wednesday and a few hours later he developed a fever and a red rash all over his body,” she said. Ndlovu said due to the long walking distance to the clinic she relaxed for that day. “Later in the afternoon he developed diarrhoea and in no time it was blood stained. Unfortunately at night I had no means of taking him to hospital.
“His condition rapidly deteriorated during the night and early morning I took him to the clinic at 8AM and at 11AM he passed on,” she said. Ndlovu told The Chronicle she suspected her son died after reacting negatively to the vaccines. His body has been taken to Bulawayo for a postmortem.
Director of Disease Control and Prevention in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Portia Manangazira said it was usually a good sign for children to show some reaction after being immunised. She said one death was recorded in Matabeleland North which was being investigated.
“Some bodies react a little bit to the vaccines but to us in the health sector that is a good sign. They may develop a rash, bit of discomfort, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea but when it becomes blood stained then pathological tests need to be done. “So far the immunisation has been going on very well with a few reactions here and there which were nothing serious. No deaths have been recorded since the campaign started,” said Dr Manangazira.
She said she could not comment further on Bongetha’s case before seeing the results of the postmortem. ‘We still urge mothers to immediately take their children to the nearest health centres whenever they develop any of the above symptoms following immunisation,” she added.
The government had targeted about 5,264,000 children for vaccination during the programme. The Ministry of Health administered the new measles vaccine to children between nine and 15 years. Children aged between six and 59 months were also being given Vitamin A supplementation during the same period.
Dr Manangazira said the response from the provinces was impressive. “The immunisation exercise went on well in all the provinces. We are quite happy with the good turnout countrywide, although we encountered one fatality in Matabeleland North which is still being investigated.
“We are yet to get a comprehensive report from the provinces for day four (Thursday) and day five (Friday) due to load shedding which is affecting all parts of the country,” said Dr Manangazira. Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Officer Dr Nyasha Masuka said the exercise went well in all parts of the province.
“We surpassed our target,” he said. “We even ran out of vaccines as we had more children coming in yesterday but we quickly addressed the problem and we believe all children were vaccinated.” He said at the onset of the programme they had a provincial target of 322,430 and a daily target of about 64,489 from all districts and they managed to surpass it.
Bulawayo City Council director of Health Services, Dr Zanele Hwalima declined to comment and requested that questions be sent to the local authority’s public relations department. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, this year’s national immunisation days were triggered by the quest to eliminate measles and protect children against rubella virus infection.
This creates a nationwide immunity against measles, introduce rubella virus for the first time in Zimbabwe and reduce rubella infection in children. Last year, the government recorded 1,024 cases of rubella. The main symptom of rubella is a rash — pink or light red — on the face, which then spreads to the chest, stomach, back, arms and legs. Within about three days, the rash goes away with no staining or peeling of the skin and after it has cleared up the skin may shed small flakes.
In pregnant women, rubella causes foetal abnormalities such as congenital heart defects, blindness and deafness. On the other hand, measles is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection that causes high fever, skin rash, running nose, watery eyes and a cough. The disease mainly affects children under the age of five years.
Measles in unvaccinated children is serious and can cause severe diarrhoea leading to dehydration, blindness to those with inadequate Vitamin A intake, inflammation of the middle ear, brain damage and death due to pneumonia.