Children getting immunized previously
A combined vaccine of Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign which will be held mid March is estimated to be administered to 5 million children between the ages of 9 months and 14 years according to the Ministry of Health.
Rwanda will become the first country in Africa to roll out the measles and rubella (MR) vaccine nationwide. The MR vaccine protects against sickness from both measles and rubella viruses.
This program is made possible due to the partnership between the Government of Rwanda and key partners that include GAVI Alliance, WHO, UNICEF and USAID.
Rwanda has been vaccinating all infants with one dose of measles vaccine for many years, and experts have estimated that measles deaths in Rwanda declined from 670 in 2000 to 3 in 2010.
To sustain these gains and prevent future outbreaks, the Ministry of Health decided to provide a second dose of the vaccine to children nationwide.
Measles is easily spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing and can cause a fever, cough, sore throat and rash while in rare cases the disease causes breathing problems and swelling in the brain that may lead to death.
The new vaccine protects against rubella infection, which causes fever, headache and rash in adults but generally few symptoms in children.
Rubella is usually spread through close contact with another person. A pregnant mother is at risk of delivering a baby with malformations and mental problems if she gets infected with the rubella virus.
This is called congenital rubella syndrome. In a bid to prevent any future cases of the disease and ensure that healthy babies are born, the Ministry of Health decided to rollout rubella vaccine.
Ministry of Health says that Rwanda will provide vaccines both at normal community-based vaccination sites and in schools.
For children attending school, trained health workers will give one dose of MR vaccine to each child between 12 and 15 March.
For children not in school, outreach sites will be set up in villages where children can be brought for vaccination. Community health workers will help identify children not attending school and encourage them to go to community-based sites.
The Ministry of Health will use this opportunity to increase the efficiency and impact of the overall vaccination program by integrating the campaign with other health efforts.
The initiative is expected to reduce costs and decrease the number of visits needed for full vaccination. In schools, girls in Primary Grade 6 and Secondary Grade 3 will also receive their first dose of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.
Children who are between the ages of 6 months and 5 years will receive vitamin A as well.
The MR vaccine will be integrated into the routine immunization program for infants under 1 year.
For effective results, the Health Ministry calls upon parents and teachers to speak to children about the importance of vaccination and ensure that children attend school on the vaccination days.
Rwanda has shown tremendous progress in the elimination of vaccine preventable diseases. The launch of the MR vaccine campaign will be an added effort to advance this goal and ensuring that the country raises healthy future generations.