Vaccination against Measles and Rubella
Ghana is set to introduce a new Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccine from September 2013, as part of the roadmap to achieve the target of accelerated measles elimination in line with the Millennium Development Goal four.
The new MR Vaccine, is a combination of measles and rubella vaccine in one, which would protect against the viruses of the two diseases.
This was announced at a press briefing organised by the Ghana Health Service, as part of the Measles- Rubella Vaccination campaign in Accra on the theme: “Prevent Measles and Rubella with one vaccine; Vaccinate now”.
Dr Antwi Agyei, Programme Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), said although Ghana has been carrying out vaccination against measles, a disease caused by the measles virus, since 1978, studies had established that Rubella was endemic in Ghana and that no specific intervention had been put in place to address it.
Rubella, also called German Measles, is a generally trivial infectious disease that has similar symptoms as measles. Like measles, Rubella can be transmitted from person to person when droplets containing the rubella virus discharged from a patient’s mouth or nose when he/she coughs or sneezes and are inhaled by another person.
Rubella can also be passed on during pregnancy. When the woman contracts the disease, the virus is passed through the placenta into the circulatory system of the unborn child, causing either a miscarriage or birth of an infant with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
Although Rubella is generally benign, CRS in infants is dangerous and can cause complications, including blindness, deafness, mental retardation, heart defects (hole-in-heart) and host of other conditions from diabetes to autism (a disorder that affects the social, emotional and behavioural development of children).
CRS is endemic in Ghana, with 700 babies born with it every year. Exposure is high among the population with 92.6 percent prevalence in pregnant women and up to 40 per cent of fever-rash cases, who test negative for measles, but shows positive for rubella.
Also, the number of suspected measles cases recorded in 2012 had increased to 89 from 45 in 2002.
Dr. Agyei noted that only a marginal cost will be added to measles elimination campaign to address the Rubella and this had informed the decision to bring the campaign forward to 2013 instead of 2014, and assured Ghanaians that the vaccine was safe and effective.
Dr. Susan Namondo Ngongi, Country Representative, UNICEF Ghana, on her part advised the media to take up the role of educating the public about the safety and effectiveness of vaccine preventable diseases.
She said the Measles- Rubella Mass Vaccination campaign could reach the public if the media and other stakeholders took the message further, adding that, “radio and TV stations should also engage in discussions concerning the vaccination on all the preventable diseases”.
She stated that Ghana had made significant progress towards the control of vaccine preventable diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles and whooping cough, hence; UNICEF, WHO and other development partners would continue to support Ghana Health Service (GHS) to improve child survival and development.
The campaign would cost $19.7 million, 91 per cent of which is being borne by GAVI Alliance and the rest by the government of Ghana and its development partners including WHO, UNICEF, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints among others.