With the advent of World Immunisation Week on April 24, Pakistan has some embarrassing statistics to share about the prevalence of measles in the country. We are only in the first third of the year and already there have been 25,401 reported cases of measles, with Punjab leading the trail with 16,608 cases. Sindh leads in the highest number of deaths, at 62, with the total number of deaths in the country thus far at 146. Fears are high that this is only the start of an ominous year as far as the measles epidemic is concerned.
While child measles is the primary concern, adults are also susceptible to the disease if they have never received vaccination. Hence, complete information about past immunisations and their dates should be kept upon every visit to a doctor as standard practice. This is a necessary measure for a developing nation. Controlling the epidemic in both adult and child populations is important to mitigate the spread of disease as already, the disease has expanded outward from Sindh into Punjab. Out of thousands of cases, 60 per cent of children — most of them below five years of age — were not administered even a single dose, though proper immunisation requires two doses of the vaccine. Approximately 20 per cent of children were vaccinated incompletely with only one dose. The rise in thousands of cases of measles indicates that vaccination coverage is declining. It also indicates the proclivity of the government to forget about basic health care for citizens. Pakistan stands among the top five countries that have the highest number of unvaccinated children.
In tackling the measles epidemic, a lack of international donations is not something to complain about because Pakistan first has to agree to fight the problem on its own. Federal and provincial health departments must act in unison with each province’s doctors and health administrators to vaccinate children. Concerned citizens no longer want to hear excuses; they want action.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2013.