Around 800 children may have died due to measles in Pakistan in the current year, compelling authorities to launch world’s largest vaccination drive against extremely infectious diseases Measles and Rubella, during which over 91 million children would be vaccinated during 12-days long campaign starting from Monday, experts and officials said on Friday.
“As many as 8357 cases of measles have so far been reported in Pakistan, and the reported number of deaths due to measles is 127 but looking at the case fatality rate, it is estimated that over 800 children would have been died in Pakistan due to measles, which is an extremely infectious disease”, Prof. Jamal Raza, Executive Director Sindh Institute of Children and Neonatology told an orientation session for health journalists at Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Friday.
The orientation session for health journalists on measles and rubella was organized by the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Sindh in collaboration with UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO) and other international agencies to sensitize them about importance of vaccination drive in the country.
Prof. Jamal Raza maintained that measles is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult, adding that it has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.
He maintained that measles’ reported cases increased approximately four times this year as compared to 2020 when only 2747 cases had been reported while only 51 deaths had been reported last year, adding that Sindh has so far witnessed 45 deaths alone in the first 43 months of the current year, followed by 39 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 16 in Punjab, 26 in Balochistan, and one in KPMD.
“Number of suspected cases of measles is around 18411 this year and keeping in view the case mortality, it is estimated that around 800 children would have been died due to measles alone in Pakistan so far”, Prof. Jamal Raza added.
The SICHN Executive Director further said around 82 countries of the world have successfully eliminated measles from their soil while 82 counties have controlled Rubella on their soil, adding that with the help of effective vaccination drives, these countries have averted 23 million deaths so far.
Regarding Rubella, he said it is also a viral disease, which is not as lethal as measles is but added that it can cause congenital rubella syndrome, an illness in infants that results from maternal infection with rubella virus during pregnancy.
When rubella infection occurs during early pregnancy, serious consequences–such as miscarriages, stillbirths, and a constellation of severe birth defects in infants–can result, he added.
Urging parents to get their children between the ages of 9 months to 15 years vaccinated during the upcoming Measles Rubella drive starting from November 15, he said media should support the campaign and apprise the parents of importance of vaccination, which save lives and prevent children from getting permanently disabled.