A MASS immunisation campaign where 12.7 million children in the country are expected to be immunised against measles, will commenses on October 15 and ends on October 19.
Measles, a viral air-borne disease, is spread by close contact with an infected person, and is very infectious. It affects all age groups but is more frequent in children less than five years old who have not been immunised against the disease.
Previously, the measles immunisation campaign covered the age group of five years and below, but this time the age range has been broaden to include children up to 15 years of age. This is because older children have started suffering from measles.
â€œRecent data shows that even children below 15 years suffer from measles,â€ says Dr. Isa Makumbi of the Uganda National Expanded Programme of Immunisation (UNEPI).
A child with measles develops a skin rash lasting a minimum of three days with fever and at least one of the following; red eyes, red lips, sores in the mouth, cough and a running nose. An attack of measles is more severe in children who have not been immunised.
â€œIn Uganda, measles is the fourth killer disease in children below five.
Due to the decline in the immunisation against measles, outbreaks are becoming common countrywide and child deaths continue to occur,â€ says Dr. Rachael Sseruyange, of the Ministry of Health.
â€œThe disease has no specific treatment but can be prevented by vaccination,â€ she added.
Martin Mogwanja, the country representative of UNICEF, says children should be immunised against measles at nine months.
In a bid to accelerate the prevention and control of measles however, all children between six months and 15 years should be immunised during the mass measles immunisation campaign regardless of their current immunisation status.
Measles is highly contagious, hence 100% measles immunisation coverage is required to prevent an outbreak in the community.
â€œAt nine months only 85% of the children born are vaccinated leaving 15% unprotected against the disease.
â€œOur national routine immunisation coverage has persistently remained lower than the 95% coverage that is required to interrupt the measles transmission,â€ says Makumbi.
In 2002, 58 measles outbreaks were reported in 28 districts.
These outbreaks resulted into 50,000 cases of measles nation wide and 10% of which ended in death.
The main objective of the mass measles immunisation campaign is to vaccinate at least 95% of children aged 6 months to 14 years, in a nation-wide supplemental (â€œcatch upâ€) immunisation campaign.
This is why it is important to take all children for supplemental immunisation to ensur that they are fully protected against measles. After vaccination, if at all a child gets measles, the infection will be mild.
Measles has become endemic in Uganda despite the country having an immunisation programme for 18 years.
Immunise all your children