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Winning a war on measles

Winning a war on measles

In a victory for international cooperation, a consortium of agencies has announced impressive progress in reducing deaths from measles.
Such deaths for all ages dropped from an estimated 873,000 in 1999 to 345,000 in 2005, according to the global Measles Initiative. Of those, 791,000 in 1999 and 311,000 in 2005 were of children under the age of 5.
Important principles flow from this health initiative, whose members are the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.N. Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
Americans may take one of these basic notions for granted: There is no good reason why any child, rich or poor, should die from a preventable disease.
But they do. Among the reasons: Health-care systems in impoverished countries often lack cold storage for doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. They don't have reliable ways to get vaccines to get them to remote areas. Shots are often given in unsafe ways.
The Measles Initiative, which began in 2001, overcame those obstacles by working with national governments that were committed to widespread vaccination campaigns. Where there were no health facilities, medical personnel went to villages. In all, more than 360 million kids were immunized in a massive campaign.
Medical multitasking
Wealthier nations deserve credit for paying 40 cents per unit for kits that include a dose of vaccine, a hygienic needle and a safety box to put it in after it has been used.
The Measles Initiative also has been a model of medical multitasking. During immunization visits, many people also could get bed nets to keep malaria-carrying mosquitoes away, vitamin A for strengthening immune systems, de-worming tablets, and tetanus vaccines for pregnant women.
In developing countries, the challenge is making sure infants continue to be vaccinated against measles, with a second shot coming when they are about 6 years old.
For America, the challenge is guarding against complacency. Some parents think they no longer need to vaccinate their children against measles because it occurs so rarely in this country, and because of medical controversies.
In 2005, there was a small outbreak of measles, mainly due to an unvaccinated, 17-year-old American who caught the disease when she visited Romania and unknowingly brought it back to the United States.
Vigilance is needed around the world to prevent measles and save more young lives.


Updated : 2021-04-23 05:42 GMT+08:00