THE nationwide measles-rubella vaccination kicked off yesterday at public health institutions and schools with officials calling on parents and guardians to ensure every child gets the life saving vaccine.
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned against a dangerous global come back of measles – a preventable and highly infectious viral illness that can lead to serious health complications such as lung and brain infections in children.
The Health and Child Care Ministry then launched a nationwide vaccination programme against measles-rubella and Vitamin A administration for children aged between six months and five years which ends on Friday.
In a survey at clinics around Bulawayo, The Chronicle yesterday observed long queues at most institutions as early as 7AM.
Most parents said the process was quick and nurses had ensured they didn’t wait long to be served.
“I came here a few minutes ago. I can safely say despite the congestion I was served quickly. People came in their numbers and we are happy because nurses were very efficient during the whole process,” said Ms Singangezile Tshuma after getting her son vaccinated at Nkulumane Clinic.
Statistics could not be obtained from the Bulawayo City Council’s Department of Health Services as they had not responded by the time of going to Press.
Matabeleland South Provincial medical director Dr Chipo Chikodzore said teams were already on the ground across all the districts.
“Trainings have been done and the districts have different target areas and itineraries. These are not new people, they have done it before and we are hopeful all will go according to plan. At the same time we encourage parents to take their children who fall in the age group six months to five years for vaccination,” said Dr Chikodzore.
Matabeleland South Provincial Nursing Officer, Mrs Joyce Sibanda, said the vaccination programme was being conducted in 134 hospitals and clinics across the province while about 40 teams had been deployed to hard-to-reach areas, various outreach points and schools.
“Our province is largely rural with people having to walk long distances to the nearest health facilities. As a result, we have deployed about 40 teams across the province who will be carrying out the vaccination programme in schools and outreach points that we normally use for such programmes so that we reach out to as many people as possible,” she said.
WHO warned of a dangerous measles come back last week set to affect many countries including in Africa as cases have been increasing since the beginning of the year.
“Every region in the world, except the Americas, is experiencing an increase in cases of measles, a vaccine-preventable disease that can kill or disable children,” said WHO in a statement.
“Nearly 365 000 cases have been reported globally this year, the highest figure since 2006 which represents only a fraction of the 6,7 million suspected cases. Measles caused an estimated 109 000 deaths in 2017 as shown by recent figures.”
For a country to attain measles free status it must achieve at least 95 percent measles immunisation coverage and Zimbabwe stands at 90 percent.
Zimbabwe launched a national immunisation programme in 2012 following a massive measles outbreak in 2009 which killed 630 children.
During that time, more than 12 000 suspected cases were recorded.