Appeal for extension of measles vaccination

by Albertina Nakale

Appeal for extension of measles vaccination

Windhoek

The Kunene Regional Governor Angelika Muharukua has requested the Ministry of Health and Social Services to extend the measles and rubella vaccination campaign, saying many of the region’s far-flung residents have not yet been vaccinated due to the vast and mountainous set-up of Kunene.

The countrywide campaign targeting people between the ages of nine months and 39 years old started on July 11 and is scheduled to end today (July 22).



She said she observed mobile health teams in the region, but they are inadequate to reach all the vulnerable groups who live in the mountains, such as the Ovatue communities.

“The ministry of health officials are not going to reach the target groups because of the mountainous areas. People here are nomadic and there are no proper roads to reach where they live. The time frame for the campaign was too short. Kunene is a different region, they have to consider this factor. I am asking the ministry to extend the campaign at least by one more week to cater for the people.

During the elections they are using helicopters to reach the people in the mountains. So why can’t they use helicopters now for the sake of people’s lives? Don’t they want people here to be prevented from contracting such diseases or what?” she remarked.

According to her, Kunene should be treated as “a special case” unlike other regions countrywide.

The health director in the region, Thomas Shapumba, was not available for comment on the campaign, while his secretary who refused to mention her name said they cannot share any information with the media at this stage.

Equally, Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernhard Haufiku who last week clarified that the ministry has no bad intention in targeting only certain age groups in the current vaccination campaign, was also not available for comment.

The minister last week responded to questions raised by members of the public suspicious about the reasons for the targeted age group for the vaccination campaign.

Some members of the public blamed health officials for failing to disseminate information, while others wanted to know if there is an outbreak of measles and rubella in the country.

The ministry advised that pregnant women should not be vaccinated for measles and rubella until they have delivered, adding that couples who plan for a baby should delay pregnancy until after four months.

Measles and rubella (German measles) are diseases spread from person to person through the air – meaning one can easily get it by being around someone who is already infected.

Furthermore, the ministry said the vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious and may require hospitalisation, or can even be deadly.

Measles causes rash, cough, a runny nose, eye irritation, and fever. It can also lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or death.

Rubella causes rash, arthritis (mostly in women), and mild fever, therefore if a woman gets it while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.

According to research, an important strategic issue concerns a possible paradoxical effect, in which vaccinating only infants reduces infection of non-pregnant women by circulating rubella virus and, therefore, results in an increase in their susceptibility to residual exposures during later pregnancy.

Although the issue is only temporary – because with time the infants become immunized adults – it can be dealt with by a single mass campaign of vaccination of women (or both sexes) up to 39 years of age, research indicated.

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