By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Parents who took their children for the recently concluded Measels-Rubella- Polio national mass immunisation have all reasons to fear, after the minister for health confirmed that the vaccines have the potential to kill kids who were immunised.
Minister Jane Ruth Acheng made this shocking revelation on Friday November 15, 2019 at the Uganda Media Centre, where she confirmed that indeed the vaccines have fatal side effects.
The minister said that “Despite possible side effects from throughout vaccines, we achieved a 97% coverage for Polio vaccination. 7,955,597 children were vaccinated against Polio out of the targeted 8,200,000.”
She added “Exciting results from the Measels Rubella Campaign 2019. We achieved a 108% coverage of vaccination against Measles and Rubella; vaccinating 19,476,110 children against MR out of the targeted 18,100,000 for vaccination.”
Minister Acheng’s Full Statement
Statement from Uganda’s Minister of Health on the National Measles-Rubella and Polio Immunisation Campaign 2019
On behalf of the Ministry of Health and the Government of Uganda, I take this opportunity to update the public on the just concluded national Measles-Rubella and Polio immunisation campaign.
As you may recall, the national Measles-Rubella and Polio immunisation campaign was launched in Mayuge District on Tuesday, 15th October 2019 and implemented countrywide from 16th to 20th October 2019. There was an extension of 1 day nationwide and 2 days specifically for Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono and districts in the Karamoja region.
Results from the campaign show that we vaccinated a total of 19,476,110 children against Measles-Rubella out of the 18,100,000 targeted representing 108%; 7,955,597 children were vaccinated against Polio out of the 8,200,000 target representing 97%.
This was the first and largest vaccination campaign in the history of this country; the reason being that 3 vaccines were being delivered at the same time and the widest age range. The targets were 18.1 million children for vaccination against Measles-Rubella (9 months to 15 years of age) and 8.2 million children (0-5 years of age) for Polio vaccination.
As a result of this mass immunization campaign, most of our isolation wards have since returned to their Measles free status. We have observed a 71% reduction in the number of clinically suspected cases through our weekly surveillance reports. In the week of 4th to 10th November, only 212 suspected Measles and Rubella cases were reported following the vaccination campaign compared to 733 during the week of 1st to 7th April 2019.
From the laboratory-based surveillance, we know that about 45% of the suspected measles cases are non-specific skin conditions.
UNEPI through pharmacovigilance received a total of 90 reports of Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) from districts; the majority of the cases (77) were minor cases including pain at the injection site, mild fever, plus or minus a mild skin rash. Thirteen (13) of the cases needed investigation while 10 of the cases are social media reports and could not be verified and thus not investigated. Therefore, our investigations have ruled out death attributable to the use of vaccines. Two cases with skin problems are still hospitalised.
Like any pharmaceutical products, MR vaccines have some side effects. However, they do not affect everybody and often are minor and temporary. The common minor side effects include; soreness, redness, or rash at the injection site, fever or swelling of the glands in the cheeks or neck. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk of non-vaccination, especially at the population level.
We utilized 20,000,000 doses of Measles and Rubella vaccines, 9,649,500 doses of Oral Polio Vaccines, engaged more than 16,000 schools and 20,000 vaccination posts; 133,920 VHT members, 66,960 (nine-member) LC1 councils participated in addition to the Local government structures at parish, sub-county, Health Sub-district, district levels.
The Ministry of Health implemented the vaccination campaign in response to Measles and Rubella outbreaks in which; 300,000 suspected measles cases were reported, 46,000 patients were admitted with symptoms of Measles-rubella disease, and 586 related deaths were recorded in the three years’ period of the outbreak.
Over the last three years, at least 120 districts annually reported suspected cases through the weekly surveillance system. Ninety-six per cent (96%) of the reported cases were between the ages 1-15 years; hence informing our target population for the vaccination exercise.
Uganda continues to defend its polio-free status despite the high risk of importation of Polio from neighbouring countries; some of which continue to harbour polioviruses while others have challenged surveillance systems. It is therefore against this risk that all children at risk of polio aged 0 to 5years were vaccinated with the aim of boosting community immunity.
In order to strengthen the achievements of the mass Measles and Rubella vaccination campaign as a strong foundation for elimination of Measles in Uganda, the Ministry of Health working with partners continues to intensify routine immunisation and will work towards making the 2nd dose of the Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccine available in the near future. The 2nd dose of the MR vaccine is intended to reduce risk and increase protection against Measles and Rubella and save the country repetitive and costly mass measles vaccinations. The 1st dose of the MR vaccine will be given to children at nine months while the 2nd dose will be given at 18 months.
The Ministry of Health would like to reiterate that all vaccines administered are pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and are safe, effective and efficacious.
Finally, the Ministry of Health would like to specifically appreciate the Government of Uganda, GAVI and the World Health Organisation (WHO), these worked extremely hard to ensure the campaign was a success. In addition, I extend appreciation to the following who contributed/supported this campaign; CHAI, UNICEF, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Uganda Pediatric Association (UPA), Uganda Medical Association (UMA), and UPDF. Special recognition and appreciation go out to the Health workers who endured the various challenges during implementation to ensure that this mass immunisation campaign to protect our children was a success.
MMR Vaccine Side Effects
The MMR vaccine is very safe and most side effects are mild and short-lived.
Because the MMR vaccine combines 3 separate vaccines in 1 injection, each vaccine can cause different side effects that can happen at different times.
There’s less chance of side effects after the second dose of MMR than the first.
Common Side Effects of MMR Vaccine
About a week to 11 days after the MMR injection, some children get a very mild form of measels.
This includes a rash, high temperature, loss of appetite and a general feeling of being unwell for about 2 or 3 days.
About 3 to 4 weeks after having the MMR injection, 1 in 50 children develop a mild form of mumps.
This includes swelling of the glands in the cheek, neck or under the jaw, and lasts for a day or 2.
1 to 3 weeks after receiving the rubella vaccine component of MMR vaccine, some adult women experience painful, stiff or swollen joints, which can last for around 3 days.
Rare Side Sffects of MMR Vaccine
In rare cases, a child may get a small rash of bruise-like spots about 2 weeks after having the MMR vaccine.
This side effect is linked to the rubella vaccine and is known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).
It’s been estimated that ITP develops in 1 in every 24,000 doses of the MMR vaccine given.
There’s a greater risk of developing ITP from measles or rubella infection than there is from having the vaccine.
ITP usually gets better without treatment but, as with any rash, you should seek advice from your GP as soon as possible.
There’s a small chance of having a seizure fit 6 to 11 days after having the MMR vaccine.
It sounds alarming, but it’s rare and happens in only about 1 in every 1,000 doses.
In fact, MMR-related seizures are less frequent than seizures that occur as a direct result of a measles infection.
Allergic Reaction To MMR Vaccine
In extremely rare cases, a child can have a severe allergic reaction (known medically as anaphylaxis) immediately after having the MMR vaccine.
It’s an alarming prospect, but if the child is treated quickly, they make a full recovery. Medical staff who give vaccines are trained to deal with allergic reactions.