Measles vac­ci­na­tion ef­fort ex­tended

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

Health ex­perts have ad­vised par­ents to en­sure that chil­dren get a measles vac­cine jab soon, ir­re­spec­tive of whether your child, aged any­where be­tween six months and 15 years, was vac­ci­nated be­fore.

The call comes af­ter some prov­inces – in­clud­ing the West­ern Cape, North West and Gaut­eng – ex­pe­ri­enced a measles out­break. Many par­ents have re­mained scep­ti­cal of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vac­cines, fol­low­ing a UK study that linked the vac­cine to autism – a com­plex neu­robe­hav­ioral con­di­tion that in­cludes im­pair­ments in so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills com­bined with rigid, repet­i­tive be­hav­iours.

An­nemarie Black­more, Pharma Dy­nam­ics’ An­timi­cro­bials Port­fo­lio Man­ager, said it was strange that many par­ents were still in two minds about whether to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren, even though this par­tic­u­lar study was proven fraud­u­lent by an in­ves­ti­ga­tion published in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

“Con­trary to these mis­taken be­liefs, vac­cines do and will con­tinue to play a piv­otal role – and even more so in the next two to three decades – in com­bat­ing ill­nesses and anti-mi­cro­bial re­sis­tance alike,” she said.

The Na­tional In­sti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases (NICD) told City Press that there were 31 cases of measles re­ported in the West­ern Cape be­tween Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary; 17 in Gaut­eng be­tween March and April; plus four cases in the North West be­tween Jan­uary and April.

An­other two cases were re­ported: one apiece in Mpumalanga and Lim­popo.

Measles is a vi­ral in­fec­tion that spreads from per­son to per­son through saliva, by cough­ing, sneez­ing or be­ing in close con­tact with an in­fected per­son. It is con­sid­ered a highly con­ta­gious dis­ease. It can cause se­vere com­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing blind­ness, deaf­ness, brain dam­age, pneu­mo­nia and even death. The dis­ease can af­fect both chil­dren and adults, but it can be ef­fec­tively pre­vented through vac­ci­na­tion, which also pre­vents the virus spread­ing to oth­ers in the com­mu­nity.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has rec­om­mended pe­ri­odic mass vac­ci­na­tion cam­paigns, even in the ab­sence of measles out­breaks – in or­der to en­sure that more than 95% (95 of ev­ery 100 peo­ple) of the com­mu­nity is con­sid­ered im­mune to measles.

The NICD sus­pects that the re­cent spike in measles cases in Gaut­eng and the West­ern Cape is a di­rect re­sult of par­ents re­fus­ing to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren against the ill­ness. A sen­ti­ment shared by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers, the govern­ment and med­i­cal aids schemes.

Dis­cov­ery Health, as the largest med­i­cal scheme in South Africa, also weighed in on the de­bate with Roshini Mood­ley-Naidoo, head of risk man­age­ment and qual­ity care, ar­gu­ing that the cur­rent out­break was not be­cause the vac­cines used pre­vi­ously had failed – but rather, be­cause not ev­ery­one was vac­ci­nated.

“It is im­por­tant for peo­ple to be aware of the vac­cine sched­ules and to ad­here to them. We, there­fore, urge par­ents and their chil­dren to go to their near­est clinic or speak to their doc­tor about vac­ci­na­tion as soon as pos­si­ble, be­cause with measles, pre­ven­tion is far bet­ter than cure,” Mood­ley-Naidoo said.

The Gaut­eng de­part­ment of health has been run­ning a mass measles vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign aimed at vac­ci­nat­ing chil­dren aged be­tween six months and 15 years. The cam­paign of­fi­cially ended last week but a mop-up cam­paign con­tin­ues this month.

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