The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) has postponed for the second time its annual national measles and rubella immunisation campaigns that usually take place in June.
Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through coughing, sneezing and coming into close contact with secretion from infected person. The campaign, conducted annually by the MOHSS, aims to immunise children under the age of five.
A nursing source in the Ministry of Health in Ohangwena told New Era this week that the national immunisation campaign was initially postponed from June to July, and subsequently to August, but it is understood that the start of the campaign may be postponed beyond August.
Namibia experienced an outbreak of measles in 2013 and 2014 and there is concern among health professionals that the recent postponements in the immunisation campaign may hamper the country’s ability to meet the World Health Organisation’s immunisation target of 90 per cent by the end of 2015.
The Permanent Secretary in the MOHSS, Andrew Ndishishi, confirmed there have not yet been any immunisation campaigns this year. Ndishishi said the ministry was busy sorting out the logistics for the countrywide campaign, hence the delay.
Although the PS could not confirm precisely when the campaign would start, he gave assurances that it would commence in the not-too-distant future. “We were just sorting out the logistics, but it is coming now-now,” Ndishishi said this week.
He said in the absence of the nationwide vaccination outreach campaign children can in the intervening period still be inoculated at health centres around the country.
Ndishishi noted that the country has not experienced any outbreak of measles this year and that the situation has been stable since the most recent outbreak in 2014.
He further said the ministry is also prepared to assist in treating Angolan nationals to contain the possible spread of the disease beyond the border.
Asked for comment, the Director of Health in the Ohangwena Region, John Hango, confirmed the postponement: “We were supposed to have the campaign between August 3rd and 5th, but we received a letter saying that it has been postponed, but the [starting] date was not specified.” The nursing source, who spoke to New Era, said the situation remains worrisome following reports of several cases of measles and rubella in Ohangwena Region last year.
The source reported that extra clinics have since been set up in Angola to prevent the disease spreading to that country should any outbreak be experienced in neighbouring countries.
The Ohangwena Health Director was not in a position to provide the recorded figures for measles or rubella in the region last year, but noted that the problem is not severe at present.
New Era is reliably informed that in 2013, Ohangwena recorded 18 cases of measles and last year 93 cases were reported between January and June, with 26 reported at the Okuryangava clinic.