Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Africa's Largest Measles Vaccination Campaign Could Reduce Childhood Mortality by 20%. (News)

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Africa's Largest Measles Vaccination Campaign Could Reduce Childhood Mortality by 20%. (News)

Article excerpt

After years of declining immunization rates, a nationwide measles vaccination campaign in Kenya, the largest ever to be undertaken in Africa, was judged "very successful" by Minister of Public Health Sam Ongeri. "From a target population of 13.6 million the number immunized was 13.3 million, a record coverage of 98%" he said. In the year 2000 coverage was just 60%.

Rudi Eggers, WHO Inter-Country Epidemiologist for Eastern Africa, told the Bulletin that "more than 85% coverage is needed to protect against a measles epidemic. We need to have a herd immunity effect". In other words, the few unimmunized people need to be far enough apart so that transmission cannot continue. "For measles this is quite a big task, as this is quite an infectious disease. So you actually need to reach very high coverage--98% or so--to get that herd immunity. It seems that Kenya has reached that figure. We did a coverage survey after the campaign, to get some independent verification of that data" said Eggers.

The biggest remaining uncertainty, however, is not the number vaccinated but the census--how many people there actually are in the country. And mopping up now needs to be done in areas that did not reach the target level.

Measles in Kenya is still a severe disease. Some 10% of cases develop complications including convulsions, inner ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhoea and inflammation of the brain. "Survivors are often left with lifelong disabilities including blindness and brain damage" said Ongeri. …

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