1 September 2010 Nearly 100 million children across China will this month be vaccinated against measles in one of the world’s largest such public health exercise in an effort to bring the vast country closer to eliminating the contagious disease by 2012, two United Nations agencies said today.
“China is a priority country in the global fight against measles and we commend the Government for its leadership in this life-saving work,” said Michael O'Leary, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in China.
The vaccination campaign will kick off on 11 September and last until 20 September, WHO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a joint statement.
In 2009, more than 52,000 people in China were reported to have contracted measles, accounting for about 86 per cent of the measles cases in WHO's Western Pacific region.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that affects both children and young adults. While most individuals recover from measles infection, some may suffer serious complications such as blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, pneumonia and ear infections.
Measles is a leading cause of avoidable death and disability among children in developing countries. Globally, an estimated 164,000 people died from measles in 2008 – mostly children under the age of five.
Experience from other countries shows that well-conducted campaigns can ensure that every child, especially those not reached through the routine immunization programme, receives a measles vaccine.
“However, some people living in remote areas and large urban cities, as well as the large migrant population, may have less access to vaccines and health care than other segments of the population, and thus not be protected against measles. In addition, a small percentage of children who have previously been vaccinated against measles may not have developed immunity to the disease,” Mr. O’Leary said.
Next week’s mass vaccination aims to address those gaps.
“This campaign is important for every family in China – in remote villages, in urban areas and in migrant communities,” said Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF Representative for China.
“We encourage all parents to take their children to the closest vaccination clinic during the campaign period. This huge nationwide effort will produce significant benefits for child survival,” she added.
The measles vaccine is a safe and highly effective, but some children may get fever or mild reactions in the days following vaccination. This means that the vaccine is working to protect the child. A child who has previously received measles vaccination can still be given an additional dose of measles vaccine.
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