THE Ministry of Health and Medical Services on Monday launched its intensive month-long measles and rubella vaccination campaign.
The aim is to immunise 90,000 children in and around the country.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause blindness, encephalitis – an infection that causes brain swelling- severe diarrhoea and dehydration and severe respiratory infection such as pneumonia in which there is no treatment for measles and the only way to prevent it is to vaccinate young children, a statement from the Ministry of Health said.
Director of the Reproductive and Child Health Dr Divi Ogaoga said the Ministry is calling on all parents with children aged from six months to five years, 11 months to bring their children to clinics and vaccination posts set up around the country for injection.
“Even if your child has already had measles and rubella vaccination recently, they still need extra dosages to ensure they are full protected.
“Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms which usually appear 10-12 days after infection, including high fever, a running nose, bloodshot eyes and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards,” he said.
Permanent Secretary for Health Mrs Pauline MacNeil said with many countries in the Western Pacific affected there is a risk of an outbreak in the country.
“We remember the measles outbreak in 2014 which took the lives of nine Solomon Islanders and resulted in more than 4,600 cases throughout the country.
“Hence the best and safest way to protect our children from this disease is to immunise them,” she said.
It was revealed that rubella is also covered in the vaccine being distributed by the Ministry.
Rubella is said to be a leading cause of birth defects if contracted by mothers during early stages of pregnancy.
Hence, an unvaccinated pregnant woman infected by rubella during her first trimester has up to a 90 percent chance of giving birth to a baby with birth defects, including heart disorders, blindness, deafness or brain damage.
Mr Tony Foulkes from the WHO Solomon Islands Country Office, congratulated the Ministry on the campaign and on improving the health of Solomon Islands children.
“Routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with low routine coverage, are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths,” he said.
The campaign was implemented by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, with the support from WHO, GAVI and UNICEF to conduct that month-long “supplementation” campaign to ensure every eligible child is fully protected against the potential deadly disease.
By FOLLET JOHN