Massive measles immunization program set for Zimbabwe

The largest vaccination campaign in Zimbabwe history, which will fight measles, will kick off soon, European Commission medical expert and overseer of the campaign Dr. Torben Bruhn recently told ReliefWeb.int.

Approximately five million children under the age of 15 will be immunized against measles over a 10 day period. The $8 million campaign, which will be funded by the United States, comes on the heels of last year’s deadly outbreak across Zimbabwe, which killed hundreds of children.

Bruhn said one of the biggest challenges the campaign will be simply dealing with the huge numbers.

“The logistical challenges are immense,” Bruhn told ReliefWeb.int. “There are over 1,500 locations around the country where children will be immunized. All those locations have to be supplied with vaccines. That means maintaining a cold chain, in other words preserving the vaccine by keeping it at a low refrigerated temperature throughout the distribution process right up to the moment when it is injected into the child's arm.”

Additionally, supplying staff, primarily from the Ministry of Health, and vehicles and fuel will also be challenging, Bruhn said.

Bruhn said the vaccine is direly needed by the children of Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwe used to have excellent immunization coverage for measles, exceeding 90 percent of the population,” Bruhn said. “However, the deterioration of the health system following years of instability and under-investment meant that fewer and fewer children received the measles vaccine. The current campaign is aimed at increasing the immunization coverage as much as possible.”

The vaccine has a very good track record in terms of success rates, proving to be effective in approximately 85 percent of the people who receive it, Bruhn said.