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October 14, 2018

Special drive launched to vaccinate 7.1m children in Sindh against measles


October 14, 2018

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho on Saturday inaugurated a 12-day measles vaccination drive throughout the province to protect children from the disease, which has killed 122 children in the province this year.

Accompanied by provincial health secretary Dr Muhammad Usman Chachar, Sindh Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) project director Dr Zahoor Baloch, Sindh Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Polio Eradication coordinator Fayaz Jatoi and other partner staff, Pechuho inaugurated the drive at a ceremony held at a KMC dispensary in the Gizri area of Karachi.

The campaign is part of the National Measles Vaccination Campaign and will be conducted in all 29 districts/1,123 union councils of the province. It aims to target 7.1 million children from nine months up to five years of age across the province.

“The measles campaign is coming at a time when it is needed. The measles epidemic has been claiming lives and the vaccination drive will help to build immunity of children against this deadly disease. There have been 122 measles-related deaths in Sindh since the beginning of the year and a total of 291 lab confirmed cases have come forward. These vaccinations will save lives,” she said while talking to journalists.

The measles vaccine will be available free of charge at public and private health facilities and outreach sites, where parents will bring their children for vaccination.

There will be 1,523 fixed sites, 5,633 teams at outreach sites, 87 mobile teams, 1,1760 social mobilizers, 1,408 first-level supervisors and 356 second-level supervisors to ensure that the campaign is conducted smoothly.

“Despite several challenges, vaccines are saving more and more lives. The measles vaccine is safe and effective, and has been approved and recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The same vaccine has been used worldwide for more than 60 years.

“Children are at risk without vaccination against measles. Parents in Sindh must vaccinate their children to save them from this deadly disease,” said the minister.

EPI project director Dr Zahoor Baloch said: “This campaign would not be possible without the leadership of the minister of health Sindh as well as partners and donors. It is a joint effort to save the future of the children of Pakistan and we appreciate the support we have received from the various stakeholders.”

Doctors from public and private hospitals had also been engaged to assist with the campaign, in collaboration with the Pakistan Pediatrics’ Association, which had been supportive in leading vaccination efforts across the province, Baloch said.

“There has been and will be strong collaboration with religious leaders, education departments, media and civil society organisations to ensure that the maximum target for the campaign is achieved.”

Baloch said the campaign would provide an opportunity for the health department to administer the supplementary dose while creating awareness about the benefits of immunisation among the caregivers. Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions to save the lives of children.

Officials said that globally, immunisation had helped to avert 2-3 million deaths among children from vaccine preventable diseases.

Immunisation offers a vital platform to bring other lifesaving interventions to children. Low immunisation coverage on the other hand has an adverse effect on the other health interventions for mothers and children. The push to priorities immunisation is essential in providing equitable access to essential vaccines for all children and to save more lives.

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