Vaccinate to save lives
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.