Immunisation programme targets schools

By Ioana Tupa'i ,

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SAVING LIVES: Immunising against measles/rubella. File Photo

SAVING LIVES: Immunising against measles/rubella. File Photo (Photo: keerati1)

The ongoing measles rubella vaccination campaign has reached several schools in the country. 

The Measles Mass Campaign was first implemented in 2003 and again in 2008.

So far, students have been the focus of the immunization programme that will be carried out over three weeks.

National coordinator for the programme, Fuapepe Iese Manuleleua said there was no outbreak of measles in Samoa but it was their job to prevent future outbreaks.

“What we have found during this immunization programme is that there are a number of children in primary schools who have not had any vaccination. 

“Take for example, if Fiji has a measles/rubella outbreak today, tomorrow it would be in Samoa because people travel and the infection is airborne. 

“People who have not received the measles rubella vaccine will easily get infected and it can lead to death. 

“The measles rubella vaccine, should be stored in a cool area as it has only a six hour shelf life after which it should be thrown away.”

The vaccine is funded by United Nations Children’s Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.).

Measles Rubella vaccination in Samoa in 2016 covered 77 percent for the first dose at 12 months and 59 percent for the second dose at 15 months. 

The measles campaign reduces the percentage of children susceptible to measles and will increase the immunity of children.

The immunization programme is being carried out in Upolu and Savai’i.

Measles, a virus that attacks the respiratory tract, is one of the most contagious diseases known and is a leading cause of death among children. Measles is life threatening in low-income countries where children have limited or no access to medical treatment and are often malnourished.

Measles outbreaks are particularly deadly during emergency settings in communities experiencing, or recovering from, conflict or natural disaster. Children are especially vulnerable to deadly infections – 367 children die from measles every day, despite the availability of a safe, effective and affordable vaccine. Measles survivors are often left with life-long disabilities, such as blindness, deafness or brain damage.

The success of measles vaccination has been dramatic. Since 2000, an estimated 20.3 million child deaths have been prevented through measles immunization. In 2015, approximately 85 per cent of children around the world were immunized with one dose of measles vaccine.

Rubella is usually a mild infection, but for women during early pregnancy, rubella can seriously affect the foetus, resulting in miscarriage and the combination of disabilities collectively called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which includes heart disease, blindness and deafness.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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