COMMENT: Parents should get their children vaccinated against measles

RELIGIOUS leaders, especially those of Apostolic sects, are called upon to encourage members of their respective congregations to send their children for immunisation against measles to avoid the spread and fatality of the disease.

Measles, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air.

The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body.
The world health body further notes that more than 140 000 people, mostly children under the age of five, died from measles in 2018 despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.

“Accelerated immunisation activities have had a major impact on reducing measles deaths. During 2000-2018, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 23,2 million deaths. Global measles deaths have decreased by 73 percent from an estimated 536 000 in 2000 to 142 000 in 2018,” says WHO.

“In 2018, about 86 percent of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services — up from 72 percent in 2000. During 2000-2018, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 23,2 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.”

While the Government, through the Ministry of Health and Child Care is conducting a measles vaccination exercise in the country, it is saddening to receive reports that almost 70 children have died following a measles outbreak in the Midlands province driven by a decline in child immunisation especially by members of Apostolic sects.

Nationally, the measles outbreak has killed more than 700 children and infected thousands of others highlighting the risks of faltering childhood immunisation campaigns.

This was said by the Midlands provincial medical director Dr Mary Muchekeza on the sidelines of the commissioning of the US$200 000 state-of-the-art Gweru Provincial Hospital (GPH) Opportunistic Infections (OI)/antiretroviral therapy (ART) Centre of Excellence (COE) that will cater for over 3 500 people in need of HIV specialised care and support.

Dr Mary Muchekeza

“In terms of disease programmes, we are managing as a province, we are in the middle of an ongoing measles outbreak, not only in the Midlands province but in the country as a whole. But our response effort seems to be yielding a lot of positive results as we have seen a decline in the number of cases over the past two weeks,” she said.

Dr Muchekeza said the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoCC) is busy with the measles vaccination programme across the province’s eight districts.

“We are going around the districts vaccinating all children under five years old against measles in order to respond to the ongoing outbreak.

As I speak, today our cumulative cases for the measles in the province has been 715 and unfortunately, we have lost 69 children and most of these are from the members from the unvaccinated Apostolic sect that religiously object to our vaccination campaign and it is our wish that we would do all efforts to try and get them to try and accept vaccination of their children.”

Parents are therefore encouraged to get their children vaccinated against measles as failure to do so may lead to death or lifelong disability.

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