Sierra Leone health ministry to give over 3 million children lifesaving vaccination

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 May 2019:

Sierra Leone’s ministry of health and sanitation in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, GAVI and other health development partners will soon commence a nationwide Measles Rubella Vaccination Campaign, aiming to reach over 3 million children with lifesaving intervention, starting Monday June 10th – Sunday June 16th, 2019.

This was announced last week at an orientation meeting held for District Health Education/Social Mobilization Officers and Heath Committee Chairpersons of Local Councils at the Atlantic Hall, National Stadium in Freetown.

Public Health Sister – Aminata Nunei, who spoke on behalf of the Child Health & Expanded Programme on immunization, noted that measles is a highly infectious disease which is caused by a virus, adding that the disease remains to be one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in children under 5 years in spite of the availability of a safe and cost effective vaccine.

She said that measles related deaths are caused by severe complications including diarrhoea, pneumonia to name but a few. “Especially, children under 5 years living in overcrowded conditions are most at risk, particularly if they are malnourished, “ Sr. Nunei stressed.

She also said that even adults over 20 years of age are also at higher risk of severe or fatal measles infection.

Speaking about the similarities between measles and rubella, Sr. Nunei said that just like measles, rubella is a viral infectious disease which is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough, thereby infecting or putting other people, especially children at risk of contracting the disease.

Both measles and rubella generally cause mild illnesses in children but can also lead to severe complications in adolescents and adults.

“Most importantly, Rubella can lead to maternal rubella Infection in early pregnancy which can severely affect the foetus and can result in miscarriage, foetal death or a combination of disabling conditions collectively known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)” She added.

She reiterated that the focus is to introduce Measles Rubella Vaccine which is 2 in 1 vaccine that can beat both measles and rubella with just one vaccine, through a nationwide introduction campaign in June.

This will be the ideal opportunity for the introduction of the Measles & Rubella Vaccine into the routine immunization programme, and replace it with the existing Measles Vaccine, she said.

The new Measles Rubella Vaccine will follow the same schedule as Measles 1st dose vaccine administered at nine months, and then second dose at 15 months.

Highlighting the other interventions of the campaign, she noted that they are also going to target about 1.3 Million Children 0 – 5 years in the whole country for Polio.

She said that they will administer Vitamin A Supplement to about 1.2 million children who are 6 Months – 59 Months old; and deworming with Abendazole Tablet to all children aged 12 months – 59 months in the following 7 districts: Bonthe, Moyamba, Bombali, Port Loko , Kambia, Western Area Urban and Western Area Rural.

Chief Health Education Officer and Programme Manager, Lansana Conteh – Health Education Division, said that they have already started media engagement to raise awareness about the Measles & Rubella Vaccination Campaign.

Last week his team engaged DSMCs and Health Committee Chair Persons of Councils, and will be  engaging District Deputy Directors of Education and Representatives from the Council of Principals, as the majority of their programme beneficiaries are school children.

Mr. Conteh said they will embark on stakeholder engagement not only at national level but also at district and Chiefdom levels to ensure participation, Community Compliance, ownership and sustainability.

“We are also going to engage with journalists for deeper understanding and accurate coverage of the campaign,” he said.

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