Uganda’s Ministry of Health has said that it vaccinated over 19.4 million children aged 9 months and 15 years across the country in the recently conducted Measles and Rubella vaccination campaign.
Results from the campaign show that a total of 19,476,110 children were vaccinated against Measles and Rubella out of the 18,100,000 targeted representing 108%. 7,955,597 children were vaccinated against Polio out of the 8,200,000 that was targeted, representing 97%.
Jane Ruth Achieng, the Health Minister, told reporters at the Uganda Media Centre that this was the first and largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history.
“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 and Rubella (9 months to 15 years of age) and 8.2 million children (0-5 years of age) for Polio vaccination,” said Achieng over the weekend.
Achieng said that they utilized 20,000,000 doses of Measles and Rubella vaccines, 9,649,500 doses of Oral Polio Vaccines, engaged more than 16,000 schools and 20,000 vaccination posts; 133,920 VHT members, 66,960 (nine of clinically suspected cases through our weekly surveillance reports.
“In the week of 4th to 10th member) Local Council 1 participated in addition to the Local government structures at parish, sub-county, Health Sub-district, district levels.
“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 in November. Only 212 suspected Measles and Rubella cases were reported following the vaccination campaign compared to 733 during the week of 1st to 7th April 2019,” She added.
Achieng said that from the laboratory-based surveillance, they know that about 45% of the suspected measles cases are non-specific skin conditions. “UNEPI through pharmacovigilance received a total of 90 reports of Adverse Events.”
The Ministry of Health implemented the vaccination campaign in response to Measles and Rubella 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.
Cases Investigated and Reported side effects
“Following immunization from districts; the majority of the cases (77) were minor cases including pain at the injection site, mild fever, plus or minus a mild skin rash.
“Thirteen (13) of the cases needed investigation while 10 of the cases are social media reports and could not be verified and thus not investigated. Therefore, our investigations have ruled out death attributable to the use of vaccines. Two cases with skin problems are still hospitalized,” said Achieng.
“Like any pharmaceutical products, MR vaccines have some side effects. However, they do not affect everybody and often are minor and temporary.
“The common minor side effects include; soreness, redness, or rash at the 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.
“Over the last three years, at least 120 districts annually reported suspected cases through the weekly surveillance system,” she said.
Ninety-six per cent (96%) of the reported cases were between the ages 1-15 years; hence informing the target population for the vaccination exercise.
Uganda continues to defend its polio-free status despite the high risk of importation of Polio from neighbouring countries.
Some of which continue to harbour polioviruses while others have challenged surveillance systems.
It is therefore against this risk that all children at risk of polio aged 0 to 5years were vaccinated with the aim of boosting community immunity.
Achieng also noted that they will continue to monitor the outcomes and that they will make the 2nd dosage available in the near future.
“In order to strengthen the achievements of the mass Measles and Rubella vaccination campaign as a strong foundation for elimination of Measles in Uganda, the Ministry of Health continues to intensify routine immunization and will work towards making the 2nd dose of the Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccine available in the near future.
“The 2nd 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 1st dose of the MR vaccine will be given to children at nine months while the 2nd dose will be given at 18 months,” said Achieng.
The Ministry of Health also reiterated that all vaccines administered are prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and are safe, effective and efficacious.
BY FRANK SEMATA