Ahead of a planned nationwide vaccination campaign against Measles and Rubella, Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) from across the country have been asked to provide effective monitoring to ensure that a target of not less than 95 percent coverage is hit.
The government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health is set to embark on a mass immunization drive against Measles and Rubella beginning September this year.
This was revealed by Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng on Thursday while meeting with RDCs in Kampala. The meeting sought to brief the RDCs on the importance of the vaccination, the current global outbreak of Measles and their role in the success of the exercise.
Gavi will fund the vaccination campaign which Minister Aceng said is estimated to cost USD 19m (Shs 70.4bn). Of this, USD 6.3m will cover the cost of the vaccines and logistics while the remaining USD 12.7m will be used for operational costs including training of health workers, Village Health Teams (VHTs) and social mobilization activities.
Distribution of the funds to the 136 districts will be determined by population size, terrain, size of the districts, the number of sub-counties among others.
In making the case for the exercise, Minister Aceng said: “Vaccines are very important and the single most economically viable thing to do. With vaccination, our children are now living longer. We want to have quality children so that later, they don’t cause a burden to our facilities”.
She said that Uganda has experienced a Measles outbreak for the last two years with over 60 districts reporting cases of the disease. She also revealed that surveys have discovered that many children are suffering from Rubella, a contagious viral infection which manifests itself through rash.
Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, sore throat and fatigue.
“We have had a Measles outbreak in the last 2 years. This means that our coverage for immunization is low. We are not reaching above 90% and we have potential people in community who could spread it because there is no hard immunity,” the Minister told a group of about 100 RDCs who attended the workshop.
She explained that more coverage in terms of immunization translates into more immunity.
“If we don’t achieve the required coverage, we are still going to have this outbreak and that means the resources availed by GAVI will have gone to waste”.
The Minister appealed to RDCs to use the period between now and September to plan adequately as well as carry out the necessary mobilization of communities. She stressed the need to ensure that special groups who resent immunization either for cultural or religious reasons, are sensitized to appreciate the benefits of the upcoming campaign.
Dr Aceng also cautioned the RDCs and district authorities against misusing the funds availed by GAVI for immunization.
The vaccination will begin on September 25 and this time, the scope will be expanded to 9 months to 15 years. The Minister said the first three days of the exercise will target the schools (both Primary and Secondary).
After the three days, the vaccination teams will go into the communities, in order to immunize those who don’t go to school and those aged between 9 months to 4 years.
Andrew Bakeinaga, the Advisor on Immunization and Vaccines at World Health Organization (WHO) Uganda, said engaging RDCs ahead of the vaccination is timely. He said that at a time when more than 100,000 are being born with defects, it is important that Uganda achieves 95 percent coverage during the September exercise.
He too called for a effective mobilization of the public, proper monitoring of funds released to districts and due accountability. He asked RDCs to use every opportunity to stress the need for children to be vaccinated in time.