Childhood measles immunisation drive to bridge coverage drop

Although cleared of measles, Fiji is not free from danger with a significant number of children under five (5) unvaccinated and vulnerable to the disease, according to the Ministry of Health.

Concerns stem from findings that the country’s childhood immunisation coverage for diseases such as measles had dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes on the same day, the ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed in a joint statement that further tests on specimens of measle cases that were announced earlier this year in Fiji came back negative, affirming the country’s status as free of measles.

“This means that we have a significant number of children under the age of 5 who are not vaccinated and are vulnerable to measles infection,” Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong said in a statement earlier this month in which he also indicated that the situation was no different from many countries in the country whose immunisation schedule was also affected by COVID-19.

“This is also the age group most at risk of severe disease if infected with measles. Therefore, though there have been no confirmed cases of measles detected in Fiji this year, the supplementary immunisation activity (SIA) for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is extremely necessary and will continue.

“Proactively moving forward with ensuring that every child in the six months to five years age group has received their MMR vaccine during this campaign will help to prevent future outbreaks.”

WHO Rep to the South Pacific and Director of WHO’s Division of Pacific Technical Support Dr Mark Jacobs reiterated the importance of vaccination in view of the infectious nature and severity of the disease.

He said: “Measles is preventable through vaccination, with two doses of the vaccine providing almost 100% protection against measles. It is therefore crucial not only in Fiji but across the Pacific – that targeted immunisation efforts continue and that surveillance systems are strengthened to reduce the risk of measles outbreaks. We are confident in the health security systems in place in Fiji, including the surveillance and the laboratory capacity in country.”

He also reaffirmed WHO support to provide technical and logistical support to the ministry to address measles, COVID-19, and other diseases as needed.

Photo: File

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