Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter—
All health institutions, primary and secondary schools will from today until Friday be administering the new measles-rubella vaccine to children between nine and 15 years. Children aged between six and 59 months will also be given Vitamin A supplementation during the same period. 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,” said Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa in a recent interview.
Last year, 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.