Nationwide immunisation drive against measles-rubella kicks off todayThree million children under five to be inoculated in a bid to eliminate disease by 2023
A two-month-long nationwide campaign to vaccinate three million children against measles and rubella starts on Thursday.
The campaign, which aims to immunise children aged nine months to five years, starts off in provinces 1,2 and 5 first and then in provinces 3,5,6 and 7 next month.
"We have completed preparations for the campaign," Dr Jhalak Sharma, chief of immunisation section at the Family Welfare Division under the Department of Health Services, told the Post. "We are working to achieve 100 percent coverage this time."
Over 10,000 vaccinators and 100,000 volunteers, including female community health volunteers, will be deployed at over 45,000 immunisation stations to run the campaign.
Measles and rubella are contagious viral diseases transmitted through bodily fluids of infected persons. Early symptoms, which usually appear 10-12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, bloodshot eyes and appearance of white tiny spots inside the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops on the face, upper neck and other parts of the body.
While government-run health facilities across the country provide measles vaccines for free, a mass vaccination campaign is organised every four years. Measles was endemic in Nepal and an average of 90,000 cases were recorded every year from 1994 to 2004. Routine measles vaccination was launched in 1979 in three districts. The campaign was then expanded nationwide after ten years.
The health ministry, which initially planned to eliminate the disease——limit the number of cases to five or less per 1,000,000 population—by 2019, postponed the date to 2023.
Dr Sharma said that the diseases can be prevented with a two-dose vaccine, first administered to a child at nine months of age and the second at 15 months. As around 20 percent of 650,000 children in need of measles-rubella vaccination every year, miss their inoculation schedule, a campaign like this is needed to prevent outbreaks. Doctors say the deadly viral diseases can spread if even one child misses immunisation. In 2019, over six measles outbreaks were reported in Kapilvastu, Morang, Dang, Makwanpur, and Rautahat districts.