The Global Heroes


17th May 2024 By The Global Heroes Health

Concerns Rise over Potential Measles Outbreak

The Ministry of Health is grappling with a significant gap in the Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination coverage, raising concerns about an imminent measles outbreak among children. Over the past six years, more than 500,000 children have potentially missed the crucial first dose of the MR vaccine, leaving them vulnerable to infection.

Despite relatively high national vaccination rates, with 88.4% of children receiving the first MR dose and 82.1% the second dose in 2023, there are still pockets of unvaccinated children. These gaps are especially pronounced in hard-to-reach, peri-urban, and urban areas. The cumulative number of children missing the first dose over five years exceeds 500,000, and many have yet to receive the second dose.

This unvaccinated cohort presents a significant risk for outbreaks, necessitating periodic vaccination campaigns to address those left behind and those with low immunity. However, the last MR vaccination campaign was conducted six years ago, resulting in a larger unvaccinated group and the recent rise in localized outbreaks.

In March last year, the Northern Region experienced a measles outbreak with 209 suspected cases across 11 districts. Recently, the Western Region has also reported cases. Despite assurances from Dennis Jubin, the Western Regional Surveillance Officer of Public Health Services, that the situation is under control, stakeholders remain worried about potential deterioration without urgent action.

Dr. Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, Program Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunization, highlighted the challenge of achieving 100% vaccine coverage. He noted that even a 95% coverage rate leaves a significant number of children unvaccinated, contributing to potential outbreaks. With an annual birth cohort of 1.1 to 1.2 million, the unvaccinated population accumulates over time, creating a ripe environment for measles outbreaks.

Plans are underway for an immediate measles outbreak response vaccination in selected areas, followed by a nationwide campaign targeting all eligible children by the end of the year. Dr. Amponsa-Achiano emphasized the urgency of this effort, noting the cyclical nature of outbreaks and the critical need for proactive measures.

As Child Health Promotion Week and African Vaccination Week coincide, mothers are strongly encouraged to ensure their children receive timely vaccinations to protect against measles and other preventable diseases.

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