History was made on Tuesday in Kibeho sector of Nyaruguru district, Southern Rwanda.
Rwanda has turned out to be the first sub-Saharan, African country to introduce a dual measles-rubella vaccine.
Tuesday’s kickoff of a measles-rubella vaccine in Nyaruguru district officially marked the beginning of a Tuesday-to-Friday vaccination campaign across the country.
Health officials at the Nyaruguru district level hope to have vaccinated an estimated 133,000 children – aged from nine months to 14 years old − against rubella and measles viruses when the campaign ends on Friday.
And, under the same time span, Rwanda targets to have vaccinated slightly over five million children – about a half of the total population.
“The introduction of measles-rubella vaccine leads to several critical outcomes for children’s health. Infants won’t be born with the blindness, deafness and heart defects associated with congenital rubella syndrome”, Dr. Susan Reef, a rubella expert at US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was quoted as saying.
Rwanda’s Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Odda Gasinzigwa, launched the measles-rubella vaccination campaign in Nyaruguru district, calling upon the population to turn up en masse for their good health, which would further translate into a healthy, development viable Rwandan society.
“Rubella is a very dangerous disease”, Minister Gasinzigwa warned on-looking, thousands of Kibeho sector residents.
At the end of the measles-rubella vaccination campaign, Minister Gasinzigwa pointed out, the vaccine will, from next year 2014, be part of the normal, national immunization package for infants under one year of age.
The vaccination campaign coincides with the ongoing month, dubbed of “Girl and Woman”. It is also part of the “Child and Adolescent Health Week” within which vaccination against cervical cancer and Vitamin A are also to be administered.
Another health milestone achieved
The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Country Representative, Dr Delanyo Dovlo, described the launch of the measles-rubella vaccination campaign in Nyaruguru district as one of many other “landmarks” Rwanda has so far achieved in the health sector.
“Rwanda has done very well in controlling the vaccine-preventable diseases. But this is adding on to that in the way that not only protects children, but also makes sure that the future generation, that young women of today are going to produce, come out as healthy and as fit as possible to be responsible citizens in a country. And for us [WHO], we’ve been very happy to be part of this process because Rwanda has done very well in terms of using the resources, the vaccines, the technical support that we [WHO] provide in very concrete ways. That has produced results that are rare to find in other parts of Africa”, said Dr Delanyo.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Health is conducting the measles-rubella vaccination campaign under a partnership with GAVI Alliance, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO − just to name a few partners.
The vaccination campaign is expected to cost over $3.2 million (about Rwf2bn), sources from Rwanda’s Health Ministry have revealed.
According to WHO, rubella is a contagious viral disease, which occurs most often in children. The virus is transmitted via the respiratory route, and symptoms usually appear between 2 and 3 weeks after exposure. In children, the disease is usually mild, with low fever, nausea and a transient rash. Adults may develop arthritis and painful joints.
Infection during early pregnancy may cause fetal death or congenital rubella syndrome, which is characterized by multiple defects, particularly to the brain, heart, eyes and ears. There is no specific treatment for rubella.
While measles, still according to WHO, is a highly contagious viral disease, which affects mostly children. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear between 10 and 12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.
There is no specific treatment for measles and most people recover within 2 to 3 weeks. However, particularly in malnourished children and people with reduced immunity, measles can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia.
Only immunization can prevent both rubella and measles.