A mass measles and rubella vaccination campaign is underway throughout the Maldives, with an ambitious goal of vaccinating about 70,000 people within two weeks.
The nationwide campaign was launched Sunday with the presentation of vaccination cards by President Abdulla Yameen to two staff members at the President’s Office who were vaccinated.
Appealing for public cooperation, Health Minister Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim said the government hopes to vaccinate 95 percent of the target population before March 11.
The campaign will be carried out by the Health Protection Agency with technical assistance from the WHO, he noted.
Measles and rubella are highly contagious airborne diseases that mainly affect unvaccinated children and young adults. The measles virus affects the respiratory tract and causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms. Rubella, also known as German Measles, is a milder disease and causes a rash that lasts for three days.
Commending the mass immunisation campaign, Dr Arvind Mathur, WHO resident representative to the Maldives, noted that the last measles case in the country was reported in 2010.
The campaign is “unprecedented” as it covers adults up to the age of 25 “to completely bridge the immunity gap,” he observed.
According to the WHO, it costs approximately one US dollar to immunise a child against measles. Adding rubella to measles vaccine increases the cost only slightly, and allows for shared delivery and administration costs.
Despite the availability of a safe and cost-effective vaccine, some 134,200 measles deaths were recorded globally in 2015. But measles vaccination reduced the number of deaths by 79 percent worldwide between 2000 and 2015.
The WHO’s regional director for Southeast Asia said in a statement on Sunday that an estimated 54,500 lives were lost to measles in the Southeast Asia region in 2015, while approximately 50,000 births were affected by rubella, which causes irreversible birth defects such as deafness and heart disease when transmitted from mother to fetus.
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Source URL: Maldives Independent