Afghanistan vaccinated 5.36 million children aged 9 to 59 months with measles while 6.1 million infants up to 59 months of age received polio vaccine during a vaccination campaign held from November 26 to December 12th.
Based on data from the Afghan Ministry of Public Health’s Expanded Immunization Program, the campaign covered 329 districts in all 34 provinces of the country – with 4,341 vaccination teams consisting of four members in each team.
“It is heartwarming that we are able to protect Afghan children from measles and polio as we enter the harsh winter in this country,” said Luo Dapeng, World Health Organization.WHO) Representative in Afghanistan.
“I thank all the healthcare workers, partners and sponsors who made this possible.”
Measles is a dangerous disease that can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration; complications pneumonia, ears and eyes; encephalitis or swelling of the brain; and death.
This year, multiple outbreaks have been reported in Afghanistan, mainly in children under the age of 5.
There is no specific treatment for measles, and the only reliable protection from measles is vaccination.
Dr Dapeng reminds: “Although measles is highly contagious, it is also a preventable disease. “We must not lose sight of the progress we have made over the past decades in immunizing and protecting Afghan children.”
Half a century of protection
As of November, 5,484 cases have been confirmed, with around 300 deaths due to measles infection.
Before the national campaign, a series of local measles vaccination campaigns were conducted in 141 districts for about 3 million children.
“The measles vaccine is safe and has been used for more than 50 years,” a senior WHO official attests.
“The benefits of vaccination are clear, with evidence showing that measles vaccination has saved more than 23 million lives worldwide over the past 20 years.”
About the campaign
WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported the measles campaign in Afghanistan with the procurement and supply of vaccines as well as the development of vaccination guidelines and communication materials.
UN agencies also help build capacity for health workers to manage and implement the campaign and ensure that all eligible children are protected through safe measles and polio vaccines complete and effective.
Financial support is provided by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.