A baby is vaccinated for measles in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by Nguyen Mi
Ho Chi Minh City is starting a grand vaccination campaign for measles as it is still spreading after two months of lackluster efforts and the problem could worsen as the seasons change.
The city Preventive Health Department reported that 129 children had been infected with measles or suspected to in the first two months this year, up 21.5 times year-on-year.
It said the disease might spread further as March and April are usually its peak time.
Doctors have blamed the abnormal eruption of the disease on vaccination neglect.
The department estimated that around 5,000 children in the city have not been administered their first measles shot as they should have been, and those missing their second shots amounted to 25,000-30,000.
The city has prepared around 100,000 measles shots to provide to children starting this Friday.
Children in Vietnam are given their first measles shot at nine months old and the second at 18 months. The final shot increases the protection chance to 99 percent from 85 percent after the first shot, doctors said.
But a low rate of vaccination has opened doors for severe measles outbreaks that began in late January and killed six children in around 10 days in northern Vietnam, including Hanoi.
“We’ve been failing in vaccination for a long time,” said Dr. Le Truong Giang, former deputy director of the HCMC Health Department and now chairman of the city Community Health Association.
Doctor Truong Huu Khanh, head of the infection faculty at Ho Chi Minh City’s leading pediatrics facility Children’s Hospital No.1 said most children admitted were not vaccinated, including many of valid ages for the shots.
Health experts said dropping vaccination rates were partly due to the scare of the 5-in-1 Dutch vaccine Quinvaxem which is under suspicion of causing 15 deaths since late 2012. The Health Ministry has so far denied any connection between the deaths and the quality of the vaccine, which is administered for free.
Khanh said measles develops fast and spreads quick, and is also one of the infections for which vaccination takes effect fastest and most powerfully.
Thus a lack of vaccination can cause clear and immediate consequences, he said.
“The outbreaks from early this year indicates that measles vaccination has been ignored for the past year.”
Doctors said make-up vaccinations for the missed shots are expected to take 15 days and if successful, could end the outbreak in one month.
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