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Saturday November 27, 2021

38 measles-related deaths compel Sindh to vaccinate 19m children

Both the viral diseases – measles and rubella are vaccine-preventable diseases

October 12, 2021
Measles vaccine
Measles vaccine 

KARACHI: Death of 38 children in Sindh due to measles, one of the world’s most contagious diseases, has compelled the health authorities to launch the world’s largest vaccination drive against measles and rubella in Pakistan, during which 19 million children would be given mandatory shots of measles and rubella vaccine during the 12-day long vaccination drive next month, officials said on Monday.

During Measles-Rubella (MR) Campaign, two drops of polio will also be given to 8 million children under five years of age in this campaign, they added. “Measles, which is one of the most contagious diseases in the world, has so far claimed 38 lives in Sindh in the first nine months of the current year alone while 2,489 cases were reported in the province.

To prevent more deaths, every child from 9 months to 15 years would be given a shot of Measles and Rubella vaccine from November 15-27, 2021 in the province,” Project Director of Expanded Program (EPI) Dr Irshad Memon on Immunization (EPI) told a news conference.

Accompanied by Director General Health Sindh Dr Juman Bahoto, renowned pediatrician Dr. Khalid Shafi, Director Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority Dr Durre Naz, Dr Ahmed Ali Shaikh and others, EPI Project Director urged parents to get their children upto 15 years of age vaccinated.

“Both the viral diseases – measles and rubella are vaccine-preventable diseases. But if vaccine is not given against them to children, they can lead to death, blindness, pneumonia and infection of the brain and other permanent disabilities," Dr. Irshad Memon said and adding urged the media to support the drive in the province.

He maintained that new Measles-Rubella vaccine would be used during vaccination campaign in all Union Councils of Sindh with a target of 18.6 million children with the support of its technical partners, UNICEF and WHO.

To make this campaign successful, EPI has engaged a huge workforce including more than 15,000 Skilled Immunization Staff (Vaccinators, Medical Technicians and Lady Health Visitors); 43,624 non skilled staff to assist during the campaign; around 3,265 supervisors for monitoring.

Doctors from public and private hospitals have also been engaged to assist with the campaign, in collaboration with the Pakistan Pediatrics Association. There is a strong collaboration with religious leaders, education departments, media and the civil society organizations to ensure that the maximum target for the campaign is achieved. Dr Khalid Shafi, Secretary General of Pakistan Pediatric Association, stated that the EPI is offering free of cost vaccines against 12 preventable diseases.

Globally, immunisation has helped avert 2-3 million deaths among children from vaccine preventable diseases, Dr. Durre Naz Jamal said adding that immunisation offers a vital platform to bring other lifesaving interventions to children. “Low immunization coverage on the other hand has an adverse effect on the other health interventions for mothers and children. The push to prioritise immunization is essential in providing equitable access to essential vaccines for all children and save more lives,” Dr. Durre Naz added.