Health experts want polio-like vaccination drive for measles
PESHAWAR, Feb 3: Low immunisation coverage coupled with lack of public awareness and ineffectiveness of measles vaccine have resulted in death of about 100 children during the last two months of the previous year in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, say paediatricians.
While talking to Dawn, they said that many of the affected children got infection as they were not vaccinated against measles. While many of the immunised children also developed measles because the vaccines they received were not effective, they added.
The health experts said that cold chain couldn’t be maintained properly to store the vaccines in specified temperature that rendered the same ineffective and the recipients didn’t get protection against measles.
According to paediatricians, measles has become a nationwide epidemic owing to government’s focus on polio vaccination that left children vulnerable to other vaccine-preventable childhood diseases.
They said that measles killed children while polio handicapped them therefore priority must be accorded to control the former.
“Low vaccination coupled with lack of awareness on the part of parents results in death of children. Children up to the age of five years in the areas from where cases are being reported should be immunised immediately to put brakes on the epidemic,” a senior pediatrician told Dawn.
The province has less than 40 per cent measles vaccination coverage that is lower than the 90 per cent, claimed by the health department.
“Three teaching hospitals in Peshawar received about 1,500 children with measles. About of 50 per cent of them required hospitalisation due to sever complications including malnutrition, edema, pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis and septicemia due to depressed immunity,” the paediatricians said.
They said that children coming with diarrhoea to neonatal and children wards at Lady Reading Hospital, Hayatabad Medical Complex and Khyber Teaching Hospitals ended up getting measles owing to the presence of patients of the disease.
The Pakistan Paediatrics Association (PPA) has demanded door-to-door vaccination against measles on the pattern of polio to ensure that children stay safe.
PPA provincial president-elect Dr Amin Jan Gandapur confirmed that measles was a major problem, urging vaccination en masse. “If children are effectively vaccinated there is no chance of measles. The patients of measles suffer from mild to moderate fever, sore throat and red eyes following two or three days of the infection. Red or reddish-brown rash appears on face, neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet,” he said.
Dr Gandapur said that the infected children should be isolated to protect others, because the viral infection spread through air when patients coughed. He said that PPA recommended two doses to all children from six months to five years.
“Measles, one of the eight diseases for which the vaccines are being administered at the EPI centres, has become a severe health emergency as we have recorded three deaths in about 150 cases in the past two months,” said Dr Gandapur, who also heads children B ward at KTH.
Most of the children affected with measles transmit the infection to other children because the hospital’s wards often admit more than one patient on one bed that causes infection to others. “The disease infects children once in life and doesn’t re-infect. It can be prevented through vaccination,” he said.
EPI deputy director Dr Jan Baz Afridi said that there were some cases of measles but no death had been recorded. “People are safe. We have not recorded any death,” he claimed.
Dr Afridi said that vaccination was in progress in those areas where measles cases were reported. “The disease is under control,” he added.