10 Nov 2010

Measles outbreak in Zimbabwe reveals Apostolic sects endangering children by refusing to vaccinate them

The Herald - Zimbabwe November 11, 2009

Measles hits apostolic sects

by Herald health reporter

Thirty-five measles cases, mostly among members of apostolic sects aged between nine months and 21 years, have been reported across the country, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare has said.

The affected children, who are from Bulawayo, Bubi, Zvishavane, Chegutu, Chinhoyi, Chipinge and Harare, had never been immunised.

Of the 35 cases, eight are under the age of five and the oldest is 21-years-old.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry said three babies — aged aged between nine and 10 months — had not reached the target group of vaccination when national immunisations were conducted in June.

According to the Public Health Act, children must be immunised for measles at nine months of age, and the three infected children were not inoculated when the last Child Health Days were conducted because they were still below that age.

However, they were subsequently not immunised during routine vaccinations despite the fact that they were overdue.

The other 32 are from two different apostolic faith sects.

"The post-national immunisation day’s coverage survey revealed that 45 percent of the Johane Marange sect had refused to have their children vaccinated against measles and polio during the June campaigns," read part of the statement.

The ministry noted that June immunisations in the affected districts were remarkably high, with more than 90 percent of the targeted population vaccinated except for Bulawayo, which had 80 percent coverage.

"To help prevent and control outbreaks, individuals, families and communities are requested to be on alert and report any suspected cases of measles to the nearest health facility so that appropriate control measures are taken," said the ministry.

The ministry urged communities to comply and ensure that their children were immunised as required by law.

Measles is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection that causes high fever, skin rash, running nose, watery eyes and a cough.

The disease mainly affects children under the age of five.

Measles can cause severe diarrhoea, leading to dehydration, blindness to those with Vitamin A deficiency, inflammation of the middle ear, brain damage and eventually death due to pneumonia. In all, children should be vaccinated against seven killer diseases.

First they get an anti-tuberculosis shot (BCG) at birth. At three, four and five months, they are vaccinated a pentavelant injection, which is a combination to fight diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus (DPT), hepatitis B and polio vaccines.

At nine months, children are vaccinated against measles and at 18 months they are required to be immunised against DPT and polio.

The last immunisation is done at the age of five when children are vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and polio.

Government, in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund, carries out National Immunisation Days about twice every year to reach out to those mothers who would have missed routine vaccinations.

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