KARACHI, Jan 10: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has demanded a high-level inquiry into the extraordinary and consistent measles outbreaks, and related mortalities in Sindh, calling for severe action against responsible officials.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the president of the PMA central, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, said that measles had caused around 70 per cent of total deaths reported across the province in 2012.

“During the current measles outbreak, a total of 313 children died in the country and out of them 214 died in Sindh,” said Dr Azhar.

“Such a large number of deaths reflect the apathy of public health officials and those who work in health management activities.”

Despite the high death toll, he said, the health department was not taking up the issue seriously enough and was engaged in a blame game. He asked the government to review all the strategies and measures taken for children’s health, particularly in the rural areas.

The PMA president said that the provincial and district health managers had failed to deliver and were taking care of matters without being aware of proper scientific practices.

“Mere suspension of a couple of health officials would not do any good to the health of the masses,” he observed.

Referring to reports released by the World Health Organisation, Dr Azhar said that more than 14,580 children had been affected by measles in 2012 and out of them 7,145 children had been affected only in Sindh.

“This is almost 50 per cent of the total affected children in the country and provides clues to the bad performance of provincial health department which also manages the expanded programme of immunisation,” he said. “It is high time all responsible officers and high-ups were brought to justice.”

The general secretary of the PMA Karachi chapter, Dr Qazi M. Wasiq, observed that while no one knew the efficacy of measles vaccines given to children during routine immunisation, the government had still not set up a virology department which could have helped in determining the strain and origin of the measles virus.

Replying to a question, Dr Wasiq said that the increased and unchecked incidence of measles infection reflected the fact that the officials managing the primary tier of health care and overseeing basis health units across the province had never thought about the gravity of the problem. He suggested revamping the vaccination programmes for better results, developing a back-up programme to avert any crisis, devising a proper policy by the health department and providing vitamin A supplements to all children in the province diagnosed with measles to prevent post-disease complications. The government should also take measures to address malnutrition and problems of poor immunity in children, he added.

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