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Call for measles, rubella immunization

By Liapeng Raliengoane

MASERU – The Ministry of Health (MoH) will start the two-week national Measles and Rubella Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIA) campaign on Monday 24October.

This campaign will run until November 04.

In preparation for this, yesterday the Ministry, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) Lesotho, equipped journalists with skills to report on measles and rubella at the MoH headquarters.

The objective of the training was to capacitate media houses so that they are able to pass correct information to the public.

“Media houses are stakeholders in Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and reach a very large audience which includes audiences from hard to reach areas,” explained the MoH Communication Expert Baroane Phenethi while briefing the journalists.

On the EPI performance, the MoH Nurse ‘Malefaso Mosese presented key findings as follows: Coverage for unimmunized Measles and Rubella for Jan 2021 – August 2021 – 30% and Coverage for unimmunized Measles and Rubella for Jan 2022 – August 2022 – 38%.

WHO Lesotho EPI Consultant Abobo Francis explained measles as a viral disease that presents as a generalized rash and fever and either cough, runny nose and red eyes. “Measles is transmitted from person-to-person, can be transmitted in closed areas and is highly communicable. The symptoms usually disappear within 7 to 10 days. The aim is to eliminate the disease if more than 95% of the population is immunized.  One dose of MR vaccine delivers life immunity to most people who have complete cycle of protection through vaccination.”

The National integrated Measles and Rubella Vaccination Campaign in Lesotho report on the Global Perspective states that Measles is a major cause of death and disability among young children worldwide. In 2010, measles claimed an estimated 139,300 lives — more than 380 deaths each day. These deaths occurred mostly in children under the age of five. In addition, 100,000 babies are born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) every year.

The number of measles-related deaths has decreased by about 79% from 546 800 at the beginning of the century to 114 900 in 2014. WHO estimates that since 2000 17.1 million lives have been saved, due to increased vaccination coverage. Despite this progress, vaccine-preventable diseases remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Lesotho has experienced measles outbreaks in 2013 and 2014.

The rationale behind this campaign is for Lesotho to reach a target of seventy percent (70%) of the entire population eligible for taking the vaccine in order to reach herd immunity.

Furthermore, the campaign is going to boost services such as the provision of routine immunization, which were interrupted by the advent of COVID-19 Pandemic that impaired socio-economic and public health services in Lesotho, hence the need to catch and avert future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization coverages for diseases such as Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV); Measles/Rubella.