This was made known last week at an orientation meeting held for District Health Education/Social Mobilization Officers and Heath Committee Chairpersons of Councils at the Atlantic Hall, National Stadium in Freetown he Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, GAVI and other Health Development Partners will soon embark on a Nationwide Measles Rubella Vaccination Campaign, reaching approximately 3.2 Million Children with Lifesaving Health Interventions, starting from Monday June 10th - Sunday June 16th, this year.
Public Health Sister Aminata Nunei, who made a presentation on behalf of the Child Health & Expanded Programme on Immunization noted that Measles is a highly infectious disease which is caused by a virus, adding that the disease remains to be one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in children under 5 years in spite of the availability of a safe and cost effective vaccine. She continued that Measles related deaths are caused by severe complications including diarrhea, pneumonia to name but a few. "Especially children under 5 years living in overcrowded conditions are most at risk, particularly if they are malnourished "Sr. Nunei stressed. She surprisingly added that even adults over 20 years of age are also at higher risk of severe or fatal measles infection.
While speaking on the similarities between Measles and Rubella, Sr. Nunei stated that just as Measles, Rubella is a viral infectious disease which is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough thereby infecting or putting other people, especially children at risk of contracting the disease. Both Measles and Rubella generally cause mild illnesses in children but can cause severe complications in adolescents and adults.
"Most importantly Rubella can lead to Maternal Rubella Infection in early pregnancy which can severely affect the fetus and can result in miscarriage, fetal death or a combination of disabling conditions collectively known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)" She added.
She reiterated that the focus is to introduce Measles Rubella Vaccine which is 2 in 1 vaccine that can beat both Measles & Rubella with just 1 vaccine through a nationwide introduction campaign from in June and will be the ideal opportunity for the introduction of the Measles & Rubella Vaccine into the routine immunization programme, and replace it with the existing single measles
The new Measles Rubella Vaccine will follow the same schedule as Measles 1st dose vaccine administered at 9 months and hence introduce the second year of life opportunity for Measles Rubella Vaccine 2nd dose given similarly to the second dose of Measles at 15 months.
Highlighting the other interventions of the campaign, she noted that they were also going to target about 1.3 Million Children 0 - 5 years in the whole Country for Polio. Sr Nunei continued that they were also going to administer Vitamin a supplement/capsule, targeting about 1.2 Million Children 6 Months - 59 Months and Deworming with Abendazole Tablet to all children aged 12mths - 59mths in the following 7 districts (Bonthe, Moyamba, Bombali, Port loko , Kambia, Western Area Urban and Western Area Rural).
Chief Health Education Officer and Programme Manager, Lansana Conteh, Health Education Division maintained that they had already started media engagements to raise awareness on the MR Vaccination Campaign, adding that last week they engaged DSMCs and Health Committee Chair Persons of Councils and that they were also going g to engage District Deputy Directors of Education and Representatives from the Council of Principals this week as bulk of their target audiences are among school going children.
Mr. Conteh continued that they were going to embark on stakeholder's engagement not only at national level but also at district and Chiefdom levels to ensure participation, Community Compliance, ownership and sustainability.
"We are also going to engage and orientate journalists for deeper understanding and accurate coverage on the campaign.
He added that their target is to reach every child with the lifesaving interventions and that they were going to send teams of vaccinators in schools, markets. Mr. Conteh urged caregivers/mothers to take their children along with their Under Fives Cards to the nearest health facility for the campaign interventions.