Prominent consultant paediatricians have blamed internal politics in the provincial immunisation programme, mismanagement at district level, devolution of health department, neglect of routine immunisation and lack of awareness among parents regarding routine immunisation as basic causes behind the outbreak of measles in Sindh and the resulting deaths.
They called for immediate strengthening of routine immunisation services, launching widespread campaigns for measles across the province and making vaccines available at vaccination centres to eradicate the disease from the country.
They recommended the government to launch awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of routine immunisation and to get the children vaccinated with two doses to eliminate the chances of them contracting the viral disease.
These observations and recommendations were made by health experts and paediatricians on Monday during a public awareness programme titled ‘Measles Outbreak in Sindh: Prevention and Control’ that was organised by the Department of Continuing Professional Education in collaboration with the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health of the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH).
Drs Anita Zaidi, Syed Asad Ali and Farheen Ali talked about the recent outbreak of measles and termed it as the most highly contagious viral illness with an attack rate of almost 100 percent in susceptible population.
Sharing her presentation with the media, AKUH Paediatrics Department chair Dr Zaidi said measles is caused by the virus rubeola and could strike anybody who is not immune to it.
The child specialist said most cases of this vaccine-preventable viral infection were registered in children, because adults usually acquire immunity through the disease or have been vaccinated.
With specific reference to the recent outbreak of measles in children, she recalled a study conducted in Karachi where a large majority of parents were found to be ignorant that every child essentially required two doses of anti-measles vaccines.
“In the given scenario, the vaccination ratio of children against preventable diseases in the rural areas and the slums of major cities is almost negligible,” she observed.She said that due to poor coverage rate, the case fatality rate could be as high as 5 percent (1 in 20) and the most vulnerable were the malnourished children.
“Pneumonia, diarrhoea and encephalitis are the most common complications that lead to death,” she added.In response to a question, she said outbreaks occurred when a group of susceptible children were exposed to a case of measles.
“The cohort of susceptible children is the unvaccinated children,” she added.Other experts also spoke in detail about the outbreak of measles and said prevention was better than treatment in this case when the disease could simply be prevented by vaccinating the children.
They urged health authorities and parents to pay attention to increasing the ratio of routine immunisation to lower individuals and collective health burden, and to decrease the child mortality rate.