South Sudan seeks to vaccinate 2.3 mln children against measles

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JUBA — South Sudan’s ministry of health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have set an ambitious target to vaccinate over 2.3 million children against Measles across war-torn South Sudan.

Anthony Laku, Director of Immunization at the Ministry of Health said Friday the repeat vaccination program scheduled to start in May for children aged six months and less than five years old seeks to reduce measles outbreaks and also strengthen efforts to eradicate the highly infectious disease by 2020.

Laku said children who previously received the vaccine but are less than five years can still be vaccinated to boost their immunity against the disease.

The health ministry said measles outbreaks have been increasing in South Sudan for the past 10 years despite implementation of a follow up campaign in 2011 to 2013.

Official figures from the health ministry revealed that as of December 2016, there were over 1,130 cases of suspected measles reported across the war-torn East African nation.

“Given the current profile of our country and the situation we are in, this repeat campaign seeks to stop the outbreaks, give children vaccine and after that we have to strengthen routine vaccination so that we meet the global target to end measles by 2020,” Laku said.

According to the WHO, measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through air and a leading cause of death among young children even though a safe and cost effective vaccine is available.

Complications of measles include diarrhea with risks of developing severe conditions such as eye defects for children under five years.

WHO said in 2015, there were 134,200 measles deaths globally, representing 367 deaths every day or 15 deaths per hour.

©Alleastafrica and Xinhua

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