By Victor Akaa
More than 18 million children is to be immunised against measles, rubella and polio through a massive vaccination campaign programme in Uganda.
Children under 15 years are to benefit from this immunisation exercise.
According to the statement made known to newsmen in Abuja, not fewer than 18 million children in Uganda were to be vaccinated against measles and rubella, which amounts to 43% of the country’s population.
The statement says, 8.2 million out of the 18 million population are younger than 9 months, or 20.5% of the population, will also receive the oral polio vaccine.
According to the statement, Uganda has experienced measles outbreaks across numerous districts in the past three years. At the same time, polio remains a daunting threat, given evidence of vaccine-derived strains circulating in neighbouring countries.
In the light of the above, a five-day mass immunization campaign aimed at tackling these three public health challenges is being organised.
The programme is funded by the Government of Uganda, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The campaign, to be conducted in schools for the first three days and in communities for the last two days, targets all children younger than 15 years, whether previously immunized or not, in order to interrupt circulation of these diseases. The campaign will be a launch pad to introduce the measles-rubella vaccine into the country’s routine immunization schedule.
“This campaign does not replace the routine immunization schedule. Parents, caregivers and all concerned must ensure that all children receive and complete all the vaccines specified on our immunization schedule after the campaign,” said Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda Minister of Health.
The mass campaign provides opportunity to intensify sensitization of communities on measles, rubella and polio as well as disease surveillance and to investigate any unreported but suspected cases of these diseases. This is particularly important because of the declining trend in routine immunization coverage in the country.
“This is an extremely important exercise,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It represents an impressive level of commitment to health care that we need more than ever across the African Region to prevent deaths, disease and suffering and to avoid unnecessary expenditure when caring for people who are sick.”
The Government of Uganda acknowledges the importance of immunization against various diseases to attain Sustainable Development Goal 3, which underlines the need for good health and well-being.
“We appeal to all parents, caregivers and guardians to take your children younger than 15 years for immunization against measles, rubella and polio during this mass exercise. The Ministry of Health has approved the vaccines to be used, and they are safe, free and effective,” said Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam, WHO Representative in Uganda.
During the campaign, teams of health workers will set up vaccination service delivery posts across the country, with the objective of attaining more than 95% immunization coverage, which is needed to interrupt the transmission of measles, rubella and polio.