Government has revealed that a total of 19,476,110 children were immunized against Measles Rubella in the recent mass vaccination exercise, exceeding the initial target by 1.3 million children.
The national Measles- Rubella and Polio immunization campaign was launched on October 15 and carried on until October 20. Government would later extend the exercise for 1 day nationwide and 2 days specifically for Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono and districts in the Karamoja region in a bid to cover sections of the population that had not been covered.
In the preliminary results released on October 24, the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization revealed that 18,777,006 children had been vaccinating, representing a 105 percent success.
On Friday, the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng said that following the extension of the vaccination, a total of 19,476,110 children were immunized against Measles Rubella out of the targeted 18.1 million children.
This is in comparison with 7,955,597 children who were vaccinated against Polio out of the 8,200,000 targeted, representing 97 percent success.
Dr Aceng said this was the first and largest vaccination campaign in the history of this country; reason being that 3 vaccines were being delivered at the same time and the widest age range.
The targets were 18.1 million children for vaccination against Measles Rubella (9 months to 15 years of age) and 8.2 million children (0-5 years of age) for Polio vaccination.
“As a result of this mass immunization campaign, most of our isolation wards have since returned to their Measles free status. We have observed a 71% reduction in the number of clinically suspected cases through our weekly surveillance reports,” the Minister told reporters in Kampala.
In the week of 4th to 10th November, only 212 suspected Measles and Rubella cases were reported following the vaccination campaign compared to 733 during the week of April 1 to 7, 2019.
From the laboratory-based surveillance, we know that about 45% of the suspected measles cases are non-specific skin conditions.
The Minister said that whereas MR vaccines like any pharmaceutical products, have some side effects, they do not affect everybody and often are minor and temporary.
The common minor side effects include; soreness, redness, or rash at injection site, fever or swelling of the glands in the cheeks or neck. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk of non-vaccination especially at the population level, she said.
Ministry of Health reported that it utilized 20,000,000 doses of Measles and Rubella vaccines and 9,649,500 doses of Oral Polio Vaccines.
The exercise covered more than 16,000 schools and 20,000 vaccination posts.
The vaccination followed outbreaks in which 300,000 suspected measles cases were reported, 46,000 patients were admitted with symptoms of Measles-rubella disease, and 586 related deaths were recorded in the three years’ period of the outbreak.
Over the last three years, at least 120 districts annually reported suspected cases through the weekly surveillance system. Ninety-six percent (96%) of the reported cases were between the ages 1-15 years; hence informing our target population for the vaccination exercise.
The Minister says that in a bid to strengthen the achievements of the mass vaccination campaign, implementation of the routine immunization will be intensified and that the second dose of the Measles Rubella (MR) vaccine will be made available in the near future.
The second dose of the MR vaccine is intended to reduce risk and increase protection against Measles and Rubella and save the country repetitive and costly mass measles vaccinations. The first dose will be given to children at nine months while the 2nd dose will be given at 18 months.