Rakhine vac­cine drive lim­ited to Sit­twe

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTIKE NANDA WIN news­rooom@mm­times.com

Pub­lic health author­i­ties ad­mit­ted they do not have nearly enough in­noc­u­la­tions for all the chil­dren at risk of Ja­panese en­cephali­tis.

A VAC­CINE short­age is leav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren at risk of a deadly vi­ral out­break in Rakhine State, health of­fi­cials have said.

Ja­panese en­cephali­tis has been par­tic­u­larly acute in Shan and Rakhine states, where the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health has launched an in­oc­u­la­tion drive to stop the spread of mos­quito-borne in­fec­tions.

But the vac­cine pro­gram is be­ing lim­ited to only the state cap­i­tal, as the health de­part­ment does not have enough jabs to go around.

So far this year, 45 cases of Ja­panese en­cephali­tis in chil­dren have been re­ported in Rakhine, re­sult­ing in six deaths. De­spite cases hav­ing oc­curred in four of the state’s town­ships – Sit­twe, Pon­nagyun, Pauk­taw and Kyauk­taw – the vac­cine drive will take place only in Sit­twe be­cause it has the high­est pop­u­la­tion den­sity, ac­cord­ing to Dr Thaung Hlaing, chief of­fi­cer of pub­lic health in Rakhine.

“The main prob­lem is that we don’t have enough vac­cines. We have been given 100,000 vac­cines and so we can’t in­ject chil­dren in other town­ships. There are 98,934 chil­dren liv­ing in Sit­twe who need vac­ci­na­tion,” he said. Last year, ap­prox­i­mately 140,000 chil­dren in Sit­twe were vac­ci­nated against the vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­ease.

The de­part­ment an­nounced that chil­dren liv­ing in IDP camps will be in­cluded in the vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram. Though it can­not be con­firmed ex­actly how many chil­dren are liv­ing in the Sit­twe camps, the de­part­ment has set aside 3300 vac­ci­na­tions for those mi­nors.

Ja­panese en­cephali­tis is spread through the bite of an in­fected mos­quito. Most in­fected peo­ple show no symp­toms, but among those who do ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms, the dis­ease can be se­ri­ous, with fever, neck stiff­ness, seizures and coma. About one in four vic­tims dies and up to 50 per­cent of sur­vivors may be left with a per­ma­nent disability.

The dis­ease oc­curs mainly in ru­ral parts of Asia.

“This dis­ease oc­curs in the vil­lages mostly and is par­tic­u­larly found in peo­ple who live near pigsties,” said Dr Kyi Kyi Thar, Sit­twe town­ship pub­lic health of­fi­cer. “In these vil­lages pigsties are of­ten si­t­u­ated be­side and un­der peo­ple’s houses.”

Dr Kyi Kyi Thar ex­pressed con­fi­dence that with this new round of vac­ci­na­tions, preva­lence of the dis­ease – at least in Sit­twe – will be re­duced.

Across Myan­mar this year, there have been 173 re­ported cases of the dis­ease and 19 re­ported deaths. Since last month, vac­ci­na­tion cam­paigns have been con­ducted in north­ern Shan and Rakhine states, where the death rate is high­est.

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

Forty-five cases of chil­dren with Ja­panese en­cephali­tis have been re­ported in Rakhine State this year.

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