Vaccinate to save lives

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - NATIONAL NEWS -

The resur­gence of measles, a viral in­fec­tion and highly con­ta­gious dis­ease, is a ma­jor set­back in the steady progress made over the years in the im­prove­ment of pub­lic health. Iron­i­cally, this is hap­pen­ing when there is an ef­fec­tive an­swer to this grave threat, which is the sus­tained vac­ci­na­tion es­pe­cially of chil­dren.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) has con­firmed that there has been a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease not only in in­fec­tions, but also in the num­ber of deaths.

The in­crease in measles cases last year points to gaps in vac­ci­na­tion cov­er­age. Sadly, vac­ci­na­tion has been slowed down by mis­in­for­ma­tion, mis­trust in im­mu­ni­sa­tion and base­less claims made against the vac­cine, dis­cour­ag­ing some par­ents from tak­ing their chil­dren for jabs. In Kenya, there was the highly pub­li­cised op­po­si­tion to vac­ci­na­tion by some re­li­gious lead­ers that threat­ened pre­ven­tion.

For­tu­nately, there was a co­gent re­ac­tion from the health author­i­ties, with con­vinc­ing ex­pla­na­tions that there was no plot against any sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion.

Be­tween 2016 and last year, WHO says measles cases in­creased by 31 per cent glob­ally, and yet from 2000 to 2016, the in­ci­dence dropped by 83 per cent, sav­ing about 21 mil­lion lives, an 80 per cent de­cline in mor­tal­ity. About 110,000 peo­ple died last year out of 173,000 cases, a jump of more than 30 per cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

Measles is spread through con­tact with in­fected mu­cus and saliva. It can cause se­vere di­ar­rhoea, pneu­mo­nia and vi­sion loss and death. Un­for­tu­nately, Kenya is also pay­ing the price for the five-month nurses’ strike last year, which badly dis­rupted var­i­ous vac­ci­na­tion pro­grammes. The coun­try is star­ing at a cri­sis as thou­sands of chil­dren went with­out im­mu­ni­sa­tion, and are at risk of con­tract­ing po­lio, pneu­mo­nia, TB, tetanus, measles, BCG and in­fluenza.

The health author­i­ties must come up with an emer­gency pro­gramme to step up vac­ci­na­tions and save lives.

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