Preventive measures: Six-month-olds to get measles vaccine

Published: January 21, 2013

Currently, the first vaccine injection against measles is administered to children at the age of nine months. PHOTO: REUTERS / FILE

LAHORE: 

The Health Department has decided to lower the age at which children get their first measles vaccination from nine months to six months in areas where cases of the disease are being reported.

In a meeting here on Monday to review the situation in the province, authorities also decided to launch an awareness campaign urging parents to get their children vaccinated and to make a set of guidelines for measles treatment, participants of the meeting told The Express Tribune.

Currently, the first vaccine injection against measles is administered to children at the age of nine months. Additional Director General for Vector Borne Diseases Dr Jaffar Ilyas, who attended the meeting, said that it had been decided that in all localities where measles cases were being reported, children would be administered the first at the age of six months. They will get the next shot after a year or so. “In routine practice, the second shot is administered at the age of 15 months,” he said.

A paediatrician who attended the meeting said that senior paediatricians would make a plan to guide doctors on how to treat the disease. He said the disease was particularly dangerous for children suffering from malnutrition. “Not many children who get measles die of it. Usually it is that they get pneumonia, which can be fatal,” he said. “Those suffering from the disease should be given Vitamin A, besides usual clinical treatment.”

He said that the guidelines would be finalised by Tuesday and circulated to all executive district officers for health in the Punjab.

In a statement, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that he had sought a report on the disease situation from Special Assistant to the Chief Minister for Health Khawaja Salman Rafique.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rafique said that the Punjab was better prepared to handle a measles outbreak than Sindh, where hundreds are thought to have died of the disease.

Rafique said that 1,476 measles cases had been reported during the current year in the Punjab, whereas there had been seven suspected deaths: five in Rajanpur and one each in Gujranwala and Kasur.

He said that the Punjab government had taken steps to ensure medical care of measles patients and to stop the spread of the disease. He said “mop-up” campaigns were being carried out in the affected areas, in accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, to vaccinate children aged six months to ten years.

Rafique said that a social mobilisation campaign would be carried out through the media to inform parents about the importance of vaccinations. At the district level, DCOs were in charge of surveillance of the disease, vaccinations and monitoring of case reporting.

He said that the Health Department had more than 1.2 million anti-measles doses in stock, while 2 million more were being procured through UNICEF, for which a payment of Rs243.7 million had been made. He said that the purchased vaccines would arrive within two weeks.

The meeting was attended by Health Secretary Arif Nadeem, Health Director General Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema, Expanded Programme of Immunisation Director Dr Tanvir Hussain, Dr Babar Alam of WHO, Mushtaq Rana of UNICEF, Prof Tahir Masood of the Institute of Child Health and Children’s Hospital, paediatrician Dr Ashraf Sultan, and Dr Akhtar Rashid Malik, provincial coordinator of the Lady Health Worker Programme.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2013. 

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