Vietnam has launched a nationwide campaign to vaccinate children under five against measles following a 2009 outbreak of the viral respiratory disease that has persisted until now with nearly 30,000 cases reported so far.
The "Measles Supplementary Immunization Activities" campaign aims to vaccinate 7.5 million children aged one through five in an effort to eliminate measles across the country by 2012, according to a press release put out during the campaign's launch ceremony on October 4.
UNICEF, the WHO and the UN Foundation have lent support to the campaign by procuring 8.1 million doses of the measles vaccine, training health workers, producing communication materials and supporting mobile teams operating in hard-to-reach areas.
The measles is a viral infection of the respiratory system that can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia, acute and chronic diarrhea and encephalitis as well as serious disabilities like blindness, deafness and mental retardation.
"Good investment, strong political commitment, active involvement of the entire political system from central to local levels, high levels of social involvement in immunization and disease prevention, plus a robust and capable health care system and community support are the preconditions for reversing perilous infectious diseases," said Deputy Minister of Health Trinh Quan Huan at the launch ceremony held in Da Nang.
Dr. Jean-Marc Olivé, the WHO Representative in Vietnam, called for the vaccination of every child under five in Vietnam to ensure the campaign's success. "A missed child is an unprotected one who can infect others and perpetuate the chain of measles transmission," he said at the ceremony.
Vietnam conducted the largest-ever nationwide measles campaigns in 2002 and 2003 targeting all children up to 10 years of age. These campaigns contributed to reducing the incidence of measles dramatically in Vietnam, according to the Ministry of Health.
However, in early 2009, the country experienced significant measles outbreaks - beginning with university students in the north just before the Tet holidays. The virus then spread across the country. This transmission has continued until now; nearly 30,000 suspected cases have been reported and nearly 10,000 have been confirmed through laboratory testing so far.