Since October 15, a national measles vaccination campaign for children aged six months to ten years has been carried out across the country by the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the Organization’s Lebanon offices. World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef. Funded by the Kuwait Development Fund, this initiative continues through the end of the year in community health and care centers under the Ministry of Health and in dispensaries.
The campaign is all the more important given that the world has experienced an outbreak of measles cases for several years. Indeed, a recent report from the WHO and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States indicates a strong progression of the disease around the world. According to this document, in 2019, “the number of identified cases reached its highest level for 23 years” with 869,770 cases. An increase in deaths due to measles was also noted with 50% more deaths in 2019 (207,500) than in 2016. According to the document, this upsurge in cases is due to insufficient vaccination, linked in particular in some countries to mistrust of vaccines, especially that of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) associated with autism, according to a study published in 1998 and denied by several other research studies which have shown that this vaccine does not increase the risk of this disorder. The author of the said study had, in fact, falsified his results. The decline in vaccination is also due to the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted vaccination programs. Lebanon is not left out in this global resurgence of measles. Already in March 2018, an outbreak of cases was reported in several regions, mainly in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila. The epidemic subsequently spread to Bekaa, Akkar and South Lebanon.
“In December 2019, we started the first phase of this vaccination campaign in Akkar, Tripoli, Baalbeck and Hermel”, explains to L’Orient-Le Jour Randa Hamadé, head of the primary health care department and director of the program national immunization program at the Ministry of Public Health. “The campaign was part of the global measles control strategy and was to continue towards the end of January 2020 in other regions of Lebanon,” she continues. The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed everything, not only in Lebanon, but around the world. ”
Fear of coronavirus
The vaccination campaign was therefore postponed for several months. It was to resume with the start of the school year, “since part of the target children are in school”. This having been delayed and given that teaching is mainly done at a distance, “we have decided not to delay any longer, especially as we will be living with Covid-19 for a long time and we must guarantee the right to ‘child to health and vaccination,’ insists Ms. Hamadé.
Also, the second phase of the campaign was relaunched around mid-October. “Children between the ages of six months and one receive the measles and polio vaccine,” she says. Those aged one to ten years will receive the combined MMR vaccine and also the polio vaccine. ”
But a reluctance is observed, “caused mainly by the fear aroused by the Covid-19”, notes Ms. Hamadé. “People are afraid to go out,” she notes, assuring that “all preventive measures are taken in these community health and health centers and dispensaries”.
Lebanon does not have exact figures on measles cases in 2020, “due to the pandemic, not all cases could be identified”. “However, based on the latest statistics and the evolution of the epidemic in recent years, we can only predict an increase in cases”, insists Ms. Hamadé. At the beginning of December 2019, 1,061 cases of measles were recorded throughout the Lebanese territory, against 893 in 2018 at the same period, according to figures from the Ministry of Public Health.
This surge in cases is also due “to the change in the priorities of families, due to the economic and financial crisis” which weighs heavily on households, deplores Ms. Hamadé. “In addition, the vaccine was out of stock in the private sector,” she adds. However, this is still available in community health and care centers and dispensaries. Not all families are referred to these centers. ”
Measles is a viral disease that infects the airways before spreading throughout the body. Transmitted by direct contact or through the air, it is characterized by a high fever, accompanied by a runny nose, cough, redness in the eyes and small whitish dots on the inner side of the cheeks. The rash appears several days later, first on the face and upper neck, then on the hands and feet.
To date, there is no cure for measles. The medical care allows to avoid its complications, in particular blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear or respiratory infection. The vaccine remains the only way to prevent it.
Since October 15, a national measles vaccination campaign for children aged six months to ten years has been carried out across the country by the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the Organization’s Lebanon offices. World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef. Financed by the Kuwait Fund for Development, this initiative …