By Mourice Seretta
Kenya remains at constant threat of measles outbreaks as has been witnessed over the last one year, in which outbreaks have been reported in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Westpokot and Tana River among other counties.
A risk assessment conducted in the country with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) identified 22 counties as being at very high risk for measles outbreaks. These include: Kilifi, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana, Tanariver, TransNzoia, Elgeyo marakwet, Busia, Homabay, Migori, Kisii, Kajiado, Nairobi, Bomet, Bungoma, Kakamega, Narok and Vihiga.
The unprecedented increase in the number of unvaccinated children, accumulation of susceptible children to more than 2.1 million and the ongoing COVID 19 pandemics has compounded this problem.
According to Health CAS, Dr. Mercy Mwangangi the Ministry of Health, through the National Vaccines and Immunization Program (NVIP) plans to conduct a Measles Rubella vaccination campaign in 22 selected counties that are at highest risk from 25th June to 5th July 2021.
The campaign targets to reach approximately 3.5 million children of ages 9 – 59 Months over this period and is expected to cost Kshs. 800 million.
The campaign will involve more than 16,000 health-workers, who will offer the vaccines free of charge through 5,061 vaccination posts that will be set up in Public places including Markets, Schools, Churches, Mosques and other social places and mobile vaccination teams in addition to ALL public health facilities within the 22 counties.
The vaccination campaign will utilize vaccines which are in use in the routine immunization program and that are procured by the Government of Kenya and will be delivered by trained personnel through the existing health infrastructure.
“I appeal to all parents and caregivers with children ages 9 months to 59 months to take them for immunization. I wish to also remind fellow Kenyan to take advantage of free routine immunization services offered across the whole country and take children for vaccination at right age and timely,” Dr Mwangangi advised.
Measles and Rubella are highly infectious and serious diseases caused by viruses, for which human beings are the only reservoir. Measles is the third most common cause of deaths among children from vaccine preventable diseases. Deaths are mainly due to complications- severe diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infections with sometimes presence of pus from the ears, brain damage and Blindness.
Rubella like Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious health complications to new-borns such as birth defects, including heart problems, loss of hearing and eyesight, and brain damage.