KAMPALA – Dr. Alfred Driwale, Program Manager – Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunization – UNEPI says Uganda has an average of 1.9 million children born every year who are immunised against measles at the age of nine months.
He says measles is a disease that is globally targeted for elimination and “to achieve this, it requires that you give two doses of measles as opposed to one. Currently, we are giving one.”
Dr. Driwale says from the science of vaccines, one dose isn’t enough to protect the child fully because when you vaccinate at nine months the vaccines are 85% effective.
“It means that a child who is vaccinated is not fully protected.” “It means that of 100 children vaccinated, 15 will not benefit from the vaccine which creates gaps in our immunity against measles.”
It is against this background that the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the African Field Epidemiology Network – AFENET and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hosted a 2-day information sharing workshop to learn from other African countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya about their experiences with vaccination in the second year of life, particularly focusing on the introduction of the second dose of the Measles-Rubella vaccine.
Speaking at the conference held at Serena Hotel Kigo on Monday, Dr. Driwale noted when you give the second dose after one year, those who were partially immunised, will now be fully immunised.
“So our immunisation schedule for measles, therefore, is going to be at 9 months and at one and a half years you boost.”
This exercise, he says is starting in October 2022 during the intergraded child health days.
He says throughout the country, they are going to prepare districts, sub-counties and parishes to ensure that children who are 4 years below are brought for measles vaccination.
The expert notes that those who are between one and half years and 4 years will be getting their second dose if they had already gotten the first during the routine immunisation and those who didn’t get it from 9 months to a year will get their dose that will be the first dose and they’ll be required to come later for their second dose.
Dr. Simon Antara – Executive Director, AFENET noted that vaccines have been the game-changer in the fight against infectious disease.
“Vaccines made it possible for a disease such as smallpox to be eradicated. We are at the verge of eradicating polio, thanks to vaccines. The impact of vaccines on the COVID-19 pandemic in reducing the number of cases and restoring social and economic life is yet another proof of the game-changing role of vaccines.”
Antara says at every stage of life, there are vaccines that can help prevent diseases, ensure healthy populations, enhance economic activities and prove the quality of life which justifies the reason why the life course approach to immunization is so critical.
He says that despite the availability of vaccines to prevent several infectious diseases, many still suffer and or die from these preventable diseases, particularly in the developing world.
Dr. Annet Kisakye of the World Health Organisation called for working together of all the stakeholders to support the immunisation fields.
She says the event was timely to see how best the member states can catch up on all the missed opportunities.
Dr Arthur Fitzmaurice, Acting Uganda Country Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC says the workshop follows the direction of the Immunization Agenda 2030, which has a focus to “leave no one behind” – allow everyone, everywhere, at every age to fully benefit from vaccines for good health and well-being.
He says the priority action to reach this goal is the life course approach to essential immunization services, which aims to deliver recommended vaccines to all target groups, regardless of their stage of life.
“The timings of routine vaccinations offer opportunities to check whether people are missing any recommended vaccines from earlier in life. This catch-up vaccination is a critical component of any country’s routine immunization system.”
He says that CDC believes that strengthening immunization in the second year of life is critical to the success of the lifecourse approach to immunization.
Dr Fitzmaurice committed to continuing the strong collaboration with the Government of Uganda and immunization partners working on the Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunization.
Dr. Diana Atwiine – Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health the myth which she said has for long discouraged Ugandans to participate in the vaccination programmes.
“Every time we are introducing new vaccines we have to demystify the myth. When we introduced COVID vaccine they started saying it causes infertility, loss of manpower.”
“There some religious sects that don’t believe in the vaccination of the children because they think that they are introducing some satanic genes, all those are things that we need to continuously educate our people,” she added.
Dr. Atwiine says they are embarking on the training of the workforce to equip them with the necessary knowledge on the second measles vaccination.