Measles vaccination effort extended
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.