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735,000 measles vaccines for Fiji - Health Minister

735,000 measles vaccines for Fiji - Health Minister

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 10/12/2019

Minister for Health, Doctor Ifereimi Waqainabete who is leading the charge to ensure that the mass vaccination for measles is achieved, has today confirmed that the ministry has achieved 97% vaccination rate in the Serua, Namosi and Navua outbreak area while there has been a 50% vaccination rate in the Central Division.

Knowing that the measles outbreak and epidemic was a major concern in different parts of the world, Doctor Waqainabete says the Health Ministry took quick action earlier this year with the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister to ensure that Fiji has sufficient amount of vaccines and they are rolled out through the outbreak areas.

He says the Ministry has completed over 135,000 vaccinations, and is on to the next 200,000 vaccinations. 

Doctor Waqainabete confirms that another 400,000 vaccines are also arriving from Australia and New Zealand.

The aim is to complete high risk and medium risk areas as a total of 735,000 vaccines have been arranged by the Health Ministry.

The Health Minister says the target population of 6 months to 5 years and the 19 years to 39 years the Central Division need to get vaccinated. He says the tents set up in different areas are now getting empty and the ministry is calling on people to come forward to get immunized.

Doctor Waqainabete says anyone who is able to go to the tent, health centre or hospital should do so now. He says the 74 mobile vaccination teams are also visiting areas in Nausori, Tailevu and Naitasiri to reach out to the underprivileged people. 

They also aim to start vaccinations in the Western and Northern divisions by the end of this week.

There are 18 confirmed cases of measles in the country. 

The Health Ministry says the latest confirmed cases are a 3-month-old baby from Wailali Settlement in Wainadoi and a 1 year 5 months old child from Wailekutu in Lami. 

The Ministry says the outbreak response teams have rapidly responded to the latest cases.

12 cases have been confirmed from the Serua/Namosi Subdivision (Wailali, Wainadoi, Navunikabi and Makosoi Deuba) 4 cases from Suva Subdivision (Samabula, Vatuwaqa, Tacirua, Wailekutu) 2 cases from Rewa Subdivision (Koronivia, Nasilai Village Nakelo)

In the first two days of phase two of the mass vaccination campaign, over 70 health teams have vaccinated more than 45,000 people across the Central Division.  

Measles is a highly contagious disease; therefore, non-essential travel to Serua/Namosi and Nasilai Village in Nakelo is strongly discouraged, as are mass gatherings in these areas. The Ministry advises that it will not support and has not supported any requests to condone mass gatherings in these locations.

If you need to travel to these areas, please get vaccinated against measles at least two weeks before travel. Please avoid taking those that cannot get vaccinated (for example, babies under the age of 6 months and pregnant women) to the outbreak areas.

In the Central Division only, the campaign will target all children aged 6 months to 5 years, all people born between 1980 and 2000 (19 to 39-year-olds, who should have ID available if asked) and all residents of Serua/Namosi aged 6 months and older. 

The BBC reports that than more than 140,000 people died from measles last year as the number of cases around the world surged once again. Most of the lives cut short were children aged under five.

The situation has been described by health experts as staggering, an outrage, a tragedy and easily preventable with vaccines.

Huge progress has been made since the year 2000, but there is concern that incidence of measles is now edging up.

In 2018, the UK - along with Albania, the Czech Republic and Greece, lost their measles elimination status. And 2019 could be even worse.

The US is reporting its highest number of cases for 25 years, while there are large outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine.

Samoa has declared a state of emergency and unvaccinated families are hanging red flags outside their homes to help medical teams find them.

The global estimates are calculated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
They show:
In 2000 - there were 28.2 million cases of measles and 535,600 deaths
In 2017 - there were 7.6 million cases of measles and 124,000 deaths
In 2018 - there were 9.8 million cases of measles and 142,000 deaths
Measles cases do not go down every year - there was an increase between 2012 and 2013, for example.

However, there is greater concern now that progress is being undone as the number of children vaccinated stalls around the world.

"The fact that any child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease like measles is frankly an outrage and a collective failure to protect the world's most vulnerable children," said Dr Tedros Ghebreysus, director-general of the WHO.

In order to stop measles spreading, 95% of children need to get the two doses of the vaccine.

But the figures have been stubbornly stuck for years at around 86% for the first jab, and 69% for the second.

Why enough children are not being vaccinated is more complicated - and the reasons are not the same in every country.

The biggest problem is access to vaccines, particular in poor countries.

The five worst-affected countries in 2018 were Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine.

Henrietta Fore, Unicef's executive director, said: "The unacceptable number of children killed last year by a wholly preventable disease is proof that measles anywhere is a threat to children everywhere."

Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said: "It is a tragedy that the world is seeing a rapid increase in cases and deaths from a disease that is easily preventable with a vaccine.

"While hesitancy and complacency are challenges to overcome, the largest measles outbreaks have hit countries with weak routine immunisation and health systems."

Prof Larson said: "These numbers are staggering. Measles, the most contagious of all vaccine-preventable diseases, is the tip of the iceberg of other vaccine-preventable disease threats and should be a wake-up call."

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