17 February 2013

Rwanda: Health Ministry Gets New Measles Vaccines

Photo: Marie Frechon/UN
A baby receiving a measles vaccination (file photo).

The Ministry of Health at the weekend received measles-rubella combined vaccine that will be used in the vaccination of more than five million children under 15 years.

The combined vaccine worth more than $3m (Rwf1.8b) is from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi Funds).

"We have received a vaccine that is a combination of measles and rubella; it is the best for the mass vaccination campaign," Health minister Agnes Binagwaho said in Kigali at the weekend.

According the minister, measles-rubella vaccine is being introduced in the country for the first time. It requires public health campaign to ensure that the vaccine reaches all children.

The minister said Rwanda is the first country in Africa to introduce the combined vaccine.

The mass immunisation exercise will be conducted between March 12-15, targeting children between nine months and 15 years. It will be carried out in schools and communities.

The vaccine, the minister said, is a generational investment in the health of children to prevent disabilities and ensure they develop to full potential.

According to the information from the ministry, there has been a decrease in infant mortality as result of implementation of integrated management of childhood illness in health facilities and communities.

The decrease is also attributed to birth reduction as many couples are taking up family planning services.

The World Health Organisation representative, Dr Devlo- Delanyo, said introducing the new vaccine is a great initiative.

Deguene Fall, who represented Unicef, reaffirmed their commitment to supporting children's health initiatives.

Rubella is a mild disease and can affect anybody. It is worse when a pregnant woman is infected in early stages; she develops malformations of the baby, which becomes a burden to mother, family and the community when the child is born.

Minister Binagwaho said government is committed to the UN Convention for prevention, treatment and care of children living with disabilities, a commitment to fight malformations and disabilities in children by prevention.

Measles and Rubella

The Director of Vaccine Preventable Diseases Division in RBC, Maurice Gatera, said Rwandans are yet to differentiate between measles and rubella, because they almost have similar symptoms.

He said few people go to hospital for treatment of either diseases and that rubella's effects are thrice that of measles.

In Rwanda, over 50,000 people died of rubella in1984, but thanks to vaccination, the disease has waned, officials said.

Since 2007, 326 people have bene infected with Rubella, while 122 suffered from measles.

Both Rubella and measles are communicable diseases caused by a virus. They often attack children and have symptoms such as itchy rash starting on the face and neck, which later spreads to the rest of the body, a low fever, a stuffy or runny nose, red and inflamed eyes and enlarged lymph nodes at the base of the skull and behind the ears.

Most children with rubella recover. Adults who contract rubella sometimes suffer complications such asa arthritis and inflammation of the brain.

The Ministry of Health has collaborated with WHO, Unicef and USAID to vail the vaccines to many other health sectors.

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