Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It is one of the most contagious diseases of humans which affects susceptible individuals of all ages and remains a cause of death among young children globally. Before the introduction of measles vaccines, most persons contracted the measles infection, usually as a very young child.
Measles can result in death in up to 30% of persons infected. Most measles-related deaths result from complication associated with the disease. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, dehydration, ear infection and pneumonia. Complications are worse among the elderly, infants 6-11 months, malnourished or immuno-compromised persons.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states that one out of every twenty children with measles gets pneumonia, which is the most common cause of death from measles in young children. The CDC further states that about one child out of every one thousand who gets measles, will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain), that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability. Measles may also result in premature birth among pregnant women and low-birth-weight babies.
Mass ‘‘catch-up’’ measles immunisation campaigns are recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as one of the main strategies to control or eliminate measles.
Several combined strategies have been implemented in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to protect the population against measles. These strategies were:
- A measles “catch- up” vaccination campaign targeting the age groups 9 months to 14 years, in 1991.
- Introduction of MMR vaccine into the Routine Immunisation Schedule at one year, in May 1991.
- Mop up MMR campaign in 1995, targeting children 1-4 years.
- A mass MR campaign, targeting males and females 20-40 years, in 1999.
- Adoption of a two-dose policy, providing a second MMR for children age 4 years, in 2001.
- Adoption of the policy to give a second MMR to children 18 months, instead of 4 years.
- A second dose catch-up MMR campaign in 2018, targeting children 2-4 years.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment continues to ensure that all new birth cohorts of children are vaccinated as guided by the national immunisation schedule. To date, the Ministry has been able to maintain 100% coverage for both MMR1 and MMR 2 in children under 5 years old.
Immunisation is one of the most cost effective public health interventions, and prevents illness and deaths from all vaccine preventable diseases. The Ministry therefore advises that all members of the population with no documented evidence of a second dose of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), vaccine, to report to their nearest health centre to make arrangements to receive the vaccine. Persons intending to travel to countries with ongoing measles transmission, should consult with their healthcare provider to make arrangements to receive the vaccine.
SOURCE: Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment