Immunisation against measles a success

Phillipa Jaja

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has said the cumulative number of children immunised against measles in the country is around 85 %, with 50,400 children in the 6-59 months category having been vaccinated, including those previously vaccinated.

 “At least 85% of the children have been vaccinated in Manicaland Province and of the 7 413 children affected by measles, 5 600 have recovered, representing 76% recovery. Countrywide immunization will continue until all the areas are covered in as much as it continues until it reaches the national 95% vaccination target.”

The update showed that Manicaland Province had the highest number of cases in the country.

Bulawayo had 0 deaths against 22 cases, Harare had 1 death against 321 cases, Manicaland recorded 347 deaths against 3084 cases, Mashonaland Central had 2 deaths and 314 cases Mashonaland East recorded 92 with 741, Mashonaland West had 141 deaths against 856 cases, Masvingo recorded 50 deaths against 411 cases, Matabeleland North had 0 deaths with 112 cases, Matabeleland South recorded 11 deaths against 68 cases with 60 Midlands against 622 recorded cases.

The Measles Vaccination Campaign by the Government of Zimbabwe ended on 30 October 2022.

The first case was recorded in Manicaland province on 10 April 2022 in Mutasa district and by 31 August, 639 children had succumbed to the virus accumulating to 750 deaths by early October.

In response, the Government of Zimbabwe rolled out a nationwide emergency immunization programme targeting 95% of all children from 6-59 months and in some instances up to 15 years in an attempt to attain herd immunity.

The outbreak was a result of various factors such as the significant drop in immunisation during the Covid-19 pandemic. Vaccination coverage was already dwindling in Zimbabwe before the pandemic, declining each year since 2017, because of a failing public health system.

Vaccine hesitancy also swelled partly because of religion. Some influential Apostolic churches discourage immunization and urge members to rely on prayer and the intercession of pastors instead. The Johane Marange Apostolic Church, which has hundreds of thousands of members and publicly opposes immunisation, is at the center of the measles outbreak.

The first measles cases and deaths came from children that belonged to the Johane Marange Apostolic Church. The group had held a large Easter service, and then a Passover celebration in July that drew worshipers from across the country which led to measles spreading across Zimbabwe.

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