WHO Urges Previously Vaccinated Children below 5 Years To Get Measles Vaccines

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Alex Gasasira has advised parents to take their children for vaccination regardless of their previous vaccination status.

By Catherine Murombedzi

The call comes in the midst of a raging Measles outbreak that since claimed 698 lives and infected a cumulative total of 6 291 Cases, while 4 459 have recovered.

Speaking in a telephone interview, Dr Gasasira said children between 6 months to under 5 years should be vaccinated irrespective of prior vaccination status.

“We urge parents and guardians to bring all 6 months to 5 years old children, even those previously immunised. This increases immunity of all children and reduces the risk of vaccinated children getting measles disease.

“Not all children get the desired immune response after receiving first dose. That is why during an outbreak situation, it is recommended that all children, irrespective of their vaccination status be vaccinated again,” said Dr Gasasira.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) Measles Situation Report also confirms that previously vaccinated children are equally at risk with indications that 1596 from the 6 291 cumulative cases have been recorded in children who have been vaccinated before while 3567 were3 in those not vaccinated.

The repeat booster jab for those already vaccinated bridges the gap, in case the response to the initial vaccination was low. The MoHCC has since activated a national immunisation programme with immediate effect as of 29th August, 2022.

With the aim of preventing the further spread of measles in the country, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, in conjunction with partners and local authorities has scaled up the national immunisation programme.

The ministry reports that August was hard hit, with the total cumulative hitting 5 735. As of 31 August, 2022, 179 new cases were reported with 139 deaths. Measles deaths are preventable, hence the nation wide call to immunisation. The recovery rate is plausible, with 4117 having regained their health status again.

The measles outbreak was first reported in Manicaland Province in May in Makoni District mainly in unvaccinated apostolic sects children. Manicaland has the highest number of infections at 47%, while Mashonaland West has the highest fatality rate at 14%, notes the August Zimbabwe stirep report from the MoHCC.

The Harare City Health Department joins the MoHCC in conducting the National Measles and COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign.

“From 29th of August to the 08 September, 2022, all council clinics will offer the two vaccines. In addition, we will have mobile community outreach points at shopping centres, market places, schools and churches to reach a wider audience. All babies continue to receive the oral drops of Vitamin A supplements,” said the acting communications manager, Innocent Ruwende over the phone.

The measles immunisation targets children aged 6 months to 5 years, with polio immunisation available too. Of late, polio has been noted in the Kariba District and as a notifiable disease, the national response team is leaving no stone unturned.

On the vaccination programme, the Covid-19 protection jab is also on offer. Children from 5 years can now access the Covid-19 vaccination at primary health centres and health facilities near them.

Like all health services, the under 16 require parental or guardian consent. The Covid-19 vaccination dose 1, 2 and booster shots are all available without any constraints nor waiting.

A discussion on a virtual old girls school forum had one saying that a relative aged 32 of the apostolic sect has cut ties with the family after turning down advise to have his children vaccinated against the five killer diseases.

“Our uncle aged 32 has lost 7 children to measles, one of the wives secretly texted that she had lost an eight-month-baby recently. The baby was buried at the new settlement the family moved to after the break up with the rest of the clan. The man is married to 3 wives and is set to get more,” she noted during a discussion on the measles outbreak.

Engagement with religious sectors not friendly to seeking conventional treatment is ongoing, with a multi-sectorial approach in use.

For example, in the Marange area in Manicaland, an area with majority being Apostles of the Marange sect, MoHCC trained champions within the church are making steady progress. Although not at the speed the nation would expect, take note, acceptance to change is a process and not an event.

Village heads and traditional leaders are also making headway as they understand the cultural backgrounds to their communities, they approach all discussions with respect. Zimbabwe has recently amended the Health Act, according to the

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013); the Public Health Act [Chapter 15:17]; the National Health Strategy 2021-2025 (NHS) (being crafted); it will be a criminal offense for anyone to deny health services to a child or someone not able to seek the service on their own. So denying a child access to treatment becomes an offence. Ignorance is not a defence to law.

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