Uganda is set to immunize more than 18 million children against measles and rubella, which amounts to 43% of the country’s population. Among them, 8.2 million children younger than 9 months, or 20.5% of the population, will also receive the oral polio vaccine.
Uganda has experienced measles outbreaks across numerous districts in the past three years. At the same time, polio remains a daunting threat, given evidence of vaccine-derived strains circulating in neighbouring countries.
The five-day mass immunization campaign, funded by the Government of Uganda; GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; the United Nations Children’s Fund; and the World Health Organization (WHO); intends to tackle these three public health challenges.
The campaign, to be conducted in schools for the first three days and in communities for the last two days, targets all children younger than 15 years, whether previously immunized or not, in order to interrupt the circulation of these diseases. The campaign will be a launchpad to introduce the measles-rubella vaccine into the country’s routine immunization schedule.
“This campaign does NOT replace the routine immunization schedule. Parents, caregivers and all concerned must ensure that all children receive and complete all the vaccines specified on our immunization schedule after the campaign,” said Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda Minister of Health.
The mass campaign provides an opportunity to intensify sensitization of communities on measles, rubella and polio as well as disease surveillance and to investigate any unreported but suspected cases of these diseases. This is particularly important because of the declining trend in routine immunization coverage in the country.
“This is an extremely important exercise,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It represents an impressive level of commitment to health care that we need more than ever across the African Region to prevent deaths, disease and suffering and to avoid unnecessary expenditure when caring for people who are sick.”
The Government of Uganda acknowledges the importance of immunization against various diseases to attain Sustainable Development Goal 3, which underlines the need for good health and well-being.
“We appeal to all parents, caregivers and guardians to take your children younger than 15 years for immunization against measles, rubella and polio during this mass exercise. The Ministry of Health has approved the vaccines to be used, and they are safe, free and effective,” said Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam, WHO Representative in Uganda.
During the campaign, teams of health workers will set up vaccination service delivery posts across the country, with the objective of attaining more than 95% immunization coverage, which is needed to interrupt the transmission of measles, rubella and polio.