Minister Motsoaledi warns anti-measles vaccine lobby groups

PRETORIA, South Africa

Government is making efforts to reach all children between the age of 6 to 59 months through an integrated immunisation against preventable diseases such as measles and polio. The Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has warned that the department may not achieve the set targets if the anti-vaccine lobby groups continue to mislead parents about the efficacy of immunisation.

This follows the protests by some communities, especially in Muslim and Jewish communities in some part of the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces which have recently experienced the outbreaks of measles disease. However, the department continues to engage with various community leaders in the affected areas to convince parents and caregivers to cooperate with the healthcare workers to have their children vaccinated to protect them against preventable deadly diseases.

Measles is a highly infectious illness with the potential for serious and life threatening complications. Individuals who never had measles and those who are unvaccinated or are incompletely vaccinated may be at risk of measles when visiting areas reporting cases. Measles can therefore affect both adults and children.

This year we have targeted to reach more than 5 million children from the age of 6 months up to 59 months or 5 years through our measles vaccination campaign and routines services

“This year we have targeted to reach more than 5 million children from the age of 6 months up to 59 months or 5 years through our measles vaccination campaign and routines services, but we only managed to achieve 80% of our targets due to a number of disturbing factors including anti-vaccine lobby groups and non-cooperative parents who refuse to sign consent forms to permit healthcare workers to vaccinate their children”, said Minister Motsoaledi.

The Minister warned parents that, “vaccine refusal endangers everyone, not just the unvaccinated children. Thus, you must prioritise the health and wellbeing of your kids by taking them to the nearest clinic or healthcare provider to ensure that are up-to-date with vaccination.”

Some of the recent measles outbreak cases are reported in KwaZulu-Natal Province. As of 19 September 2017, there were 29 confirmed measles cases and 90 suspected measles cases in KwaZulu Natal. However, confirmed measles cases in KwaZulu-Natal are in the following districts; Ethekwini (20 cases), uMgungundlovu (6 cases), iLembe District (2 cases) and UThukela District with only one case. The outbreak is mainly concentrated in specific religious groupings.

Immunisation which is part of the country programmes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on good health and wellbeing remains one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions and is widely recognised as critical to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Globally, immunisation prevents an estimated 2.5 million child deaths every year in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles.

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