Measles outbreak blamed on ‘missed opportunities’

WHO-Unicef says failure to routinely vaccinate resulted in high incidence of the disease.

Sehrish Wasif February 16, 2013
Children suffering from measles being treated at hospital in Hazroo. PHOTO: ONLINE


A joint mission of World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) on Friday concluded that the high incidence of measles across the country was a result of missed opportunities specifically the failure to vaccinate children routinely and reach them through supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs).

A four member joint mission including Dr Nadia Teleb, Regional Advisor from Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), Dr Robert Kezaala, Measles Focal Point at UNICEF headquarters,   Selenge Lkhagva, UNICEF Supply Division and Anne Cronin, Senior Programme Officer of the GAVI Secretariat in Switzerland, arrived in Pakistan on February 12 on a four-day visit to review the current measles situation and recommend actions to control measles outbreaks in Pakistan.

Concerned departments continue to falsely report high coverage of routine immunisation services. The coverage reports were proven wrong by local independent surveys carried out in all provinces.

The surveys gave a clear picture of immunisation service coverage, indicating lower coverage of a first and second dose of the measles vaccine in various provinces.

These findings were revealed by the joint mission during a high level meeting held at the National Institute of Health (NIH) with officials of the federal and provincial Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) officials and other departments concerned.

The mission further revealed that even the coverage of measles supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs) from 2010-2012 across the country were reported as high , yet the incidence of measles remains high and 50% cases indicate zero doses of the vaccine, which proves the numbers incorrect.

The joint mission gave its recommendations to control the outbreak of measles, including: strengthening routine immunisation by ensuring ownership, accountability at all levels, strengthening reporting, monitoring and a supervision system in line with the national EPI policy and improved access to quality service delivery and vaccine management system.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2013.


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