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Measles jabs for 33 million Bangladesh children

Thousands of health workers and volunteers have been set on across the country in what The World Health Organisation (WHO) has dubbed the largest ever mass measles campaign in history. Every year about 20 000 children die from measles in Bangladesh, which has a population of around 146 million. There Measles is the fifth leading cause of death among children under five years old.

During the campaign, which started on Sunday, all children aged nine months to less than five years will be given measles vaccines, while all children aged 0 to five years will be given two drops of polio vaccines.  Children, who had measles vaccines before or those who suffered from measles, will also need to get the measles jab during the campaign, because a second dose of vaccine is recommended to make sure the child is fully immunized.

“Children of that particular age who received measles or polio vaccine earlier will have to take the vaccine again,” Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haque said at the campaign launch. Just one child left without being vaccinated would be a threat to other children, she added. More than 50,000 health staff, 600,000 volunteers and aid workers have been mobilized to carry out the campaign. They will work in 120,000 vaccination sites. To cover all the children over the fortnight, 23 million doses of measles vaccines, 29 million doses of polio vaccines, 23 million auto-disabled syringes, 2.3 million reconstitution syringes and 150,000 safety boxes have already been distributed. “The campaign started very well with 2.5 million children already immunized against measles during the first day,” said Carel de Rooy, at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

About four million children under five in Bangladesh are not protected against measles, according to UNICEF estimates.
 Bangladesh last ran a major national measles campaign in 2005-2006. About 35 million children between the ages of nine months and 10 years were immunized. And in 2006, there were seven reported measles outbreaks, compared with 27 in the first two months of 2006 before that campaign. In 2007, no outbreaks were logged and there was only one in 2008 and one in 2009, UNICEF said. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, and, according to the WHO, one of the leading causes of death among young children globally. In 2008, an estimated 164,000 people died from measles - mostly children under five.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children