Govt vaccination targets 5m children

Dr Parirenyatwa

Dr Parirenyatwa

Masline Mavudzi Herald Reporter—
The Ministry of Health and Child Care will conduct a national measles-rubella vaccination campaign and Vitamin A supplementation from September 28 to October 2 targeting 5 million children.Children from the ages of 9 months to 15 years will be vaccinated for measles and rubella with the combination vaccination being done for the first time. Zimbabwe has been vaccinating against measles for decades and has been expanding the rubella vaccination programme for some time from teenage girls to all children.

The Minister of Health and Child Care Dr David Parirenyatwa said the campaign creates a nationwide immunity against measles; introducing rubella vaccine would reduce rubella infection in children. “Our concern about rubella is because of the teratogenic effect of the virus, the CRS, where various birth defects manifest. Ninety-nine percent of infants with CSR are born to mothers who were infected with rubella in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Ensuring that mothers are vaccinated is the only way to avoid the CSR since most of the defects are not amenable to treatment, especially in our setting,” he said. “We will also take the opportunity to administer Vitamin A supplementation to all children aged 6-59 months and allow those who may have missed any of their routine vaccination doses to catch up, join the movement to end avoidable child deaths and embrace the sustainable development goals,” Minister Parirenyatwa said.

Dr David Okella, the World Health Organisation representative to the country said the country will phase out measles vaccine alone and fully incorporate the measles-rubella combination vaccine in routine immunisation for children 9 months of age starting early 2016. “The combination vaccine will be introduced with this catch up campaign targeting children aged 9 months to 14 years, to reduce the number of susceptible persons in older age groups. Adding rubella vaccination is particularly important later in life, to prevent pregnant women from the risk of serious defects if they acquire the disease during pregnancy,” said Dr Okella.

Professor Rose Kamabarami director of MCHIP said the nation had to take this campaign seriously to prevent child deaths. “It is a critical event for the nation to prevent child deaths. After the campaign there will be two doses, one is the usual dose that a child gets at 9 months and will also get another one at 18 months,” said Prof Kambarami. Recorded rubella outbreak cases in 2014 were 1 024 people.