The New Times (Kigali)

5 March 2013

Rwanda: Over Five Million Children to Get Measles, Rubella Vaccine

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

About five million children between nine months and 14 years will benefit from the Measles and Rubella Vaccine, as Rwanda becomes the first country in Africa to roll out the vaccine nationwide.

The MR vaccine protects against sickness from both measles and rubella viruses.

Measles easily spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing and can cause fever, cough, sore throat and rash.

In some cases the disease causes breathing problems and swelling in the brain that may lead to death.

The new vaccine also protects against rubella infection, which causes fever, headache and rash in adults but generally, few symptoms in children.

Rubella is usually spread through close contact with another person.

A pregnant mother is at risk of delivering a baby with malformations and mental problems if she gets infected with the rubella virus.

This is called congenital rubella syndrome.

Rwanda has been vaccinating all infants with one dose of measles vaccine for many years.

And now the Ministry of Health has decided to provide a second dose of the vaccine to children nationwide in order to prevent future outbreaks.

Maurice Gatera, the Head of Vaccine Preventable Diseases Programme in the Ministry of Health, said that doses will be provided from community based vaccination sites and in schools.

He called upon the public to take advantage of the programme and ensure that their children are vaccinated against these diseases.

"The public should get actively involved, especially parents and teachers. Parents should bring their children to the community sites where vaccination will be taking place," he said.

Gatera also urged parents to ensure that children don't miss school since there is also going to be vaccination exercises at school.

Parents were also advised to visit the nearest health facility in case a child gets a fever after immunisation.

Trained health workers will administer one dose of Measles and Rubella vaccine to each child between March 12 and 15.

According to experts, deaths due to measles in Rwanda are estimated to have declined from 670 in 2000 to three in 2010.

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