Update on national Measles-Rubella and Polio immunisation campaign 2019 (November 15th, 2019)

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On behalf of the Ministry of Health and the Government of Uganda, I take this opportunity to welcome you all to this press conference convened to update the public on the just concluded national Measles- Rubella and Polio immunisation campaign.

As you may recall, the national Measles- Rubella and Polio immunisation campaign was launched in Mayuge District on Tuesday, 15th October 2019 and implemented country wide from 16th to 20th October 2019. There was an extension of 1 day nationwide and 2 days specifically for Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono and districts in the Karamoja region.

Results from the campaign show that we vaccinated a total of 19,476,110 children against Measles Rubella out of the 18,100,000 targeted representing 108%; 7,955,597 children were vaccinated against Polio out of the 8,200,000 targeted representing 97%.

This was the first and largest vaccination campaign in the history of this country; reason being that 3 vaccines were being delivered at the same time and the widest age range. The targets were 18.1 million children for vaccination against MeaslesRubella (9 months to 15 years of age) and 8.2 million children (0-5 years of age) for Polio vaccination.

As a result of this mass immunization campaign, most of our isolation wards have since returned to their Measles free status. We have observed a 71% reduction in the number of clinically suspected cases through our weekly surveillance reports. In the week of 4th to 10th November, only 212 suspected Measles and Rubella cases were reported following the vaccination campaign compared to 733 during the week of 1st to 7th April 2019.

From the laboratory-based surveillance, we know that about 45% of the suspected measles cases are non-specific skin conditions.

UNEPI through pharmacovigilance received a total of 90 reports of Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) from districts; majority of the cases (77) were minor cases including pain at injection site, mild fever, plus or minus a mild skin rash.

Thirteen (13) of the cases needed investigation while 10 of the cases are social media reports and could not be verified and thus not investigated. Therefore, our investigations have ruled out death attributable to the use of vaccines. Two cases with skin problems are still hospitalized.

Like any pharmaceutical products, MR vaccines have some side effects. However, they do not affect everybody and often are minor and temporary. The common minor side effects include; soreness, redness, or rash at injection site, fever or swelling of the glands in the cheeks or neck. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk of non-vaccination especially at the population level.
We utilized 20,000,000 doses of Measles and Rubella vaccines, 9,649,500 doses of Oral Polio Vaccines, engaged more than 16,000 schools and 20,000 vaccination posts; 133,920 VHT members, 66,960 (nine member) LC1 councils participated in addition to the Local government structures at parish, sub county, Health Sub district, district levels.

The Ministry of Health implemented the vaccination campaign in response to Measles and Rubella outbreaks in which; 300,000 suspected measles cases were reported, 46,000 patients were admitted with symptoms of Measles-rubella disease, and 586 related deaths were recorded in the three years’ period of the outbreak.
Over the last three years, at least 120 districts annually reported suspected cases through the weekly surveillance system. Ninety-six percent (96%) of the reported cases were between the ages 1-15 years; hence informing our target population for the vaccination exercise.
Uganda continues to defend its polio free status despite the high risk of importation of Polio from neighbouring countries; some of which continue to harbour polio viruses while others have challenged surveillance systems. It is therefore against this risk that all children at risk of polio aged 0 to 5years were vaccinated with the aim of boosting community immunity.

In order to strengthen the achievements of the mass Measles and Rubella vaccination campaign as a strong foundation for elimination of Measles in Uganda, the Ministry of Health working with partners continues to intensify routine immunisation and will work towards making the 2nd dose of the Measles Rubella (MR) vaccine available in the near future. The 2nd dose of the MR vaccine is intended

to reduce risk and increase protection against Measles and Rubella and save the country repetitive and costly mass measles vaccinations. The 1st dose of the MR vaccine will be given to children at nine months while the 2nd dose will be given at 18 months.

The Ministry of Health would like to reiterate that all vaccines administered are prequalified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and are safe, effective and efficacious.

Finally, the Ministry of Health would like to specifically appreciate the Government of Uganda, GAVI and the World Health Organisation (WHO), these worked extremely hard to ensure the campaign was a success. In addition, I extend appreciation to the following who contributed/supported this campaign; CHAI, UNICEF, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Uganda Pediatric Association (UPA),Uganda Medical Association (UMA), and UPDF. A Special recognition and appreciation goes out to the Health workers who endured the various challenges during implementation to ensure that this mass immunisation campaign to protect our children was a success.

For God and My country Hon.Dr. Aceng Jane Ruth Minister of Health