Covid vaccination slowdown feared in KP due to campaign against measles, rubella

Published November 14, 2021
An overseas Pakistani worker who wants to fly to the Middle East receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine at a vaccination center in Peshawar. — AFP/File
An overseas Pakistani worker who wants to fly to the Middle East receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine at a vaccination center in Peshawar. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: With two-week measles and rubella vaccination campaign beginning in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tomorrow (Monday), health officials fear that the focus of health workers on the children’s protection from two infections will temporarily slow down the coronavirus immunisation.

They, however, insist the anti-dengue activities will continue unabated.

“During the Nov 15-27 measles and rubella vaccination campaign, the health department will direct its attention completely on the immunisation of 15 million children aged from nine months to 15 years, so it will temporarily affect the ongoing Covid-19 immunisation in the province,” an official told Dawn on condition of anonymity.

He said the department had so far administered first dose of Covid-19 vaccine to 11 million people (20.67 per cent) and second dose to 20.21 million (38 per cent), while on average, the vaccine jabs were administered to 500,000 people daily.

Official insists anti-dengue activities will continue

The official said the aggressive campaign against measles and rubella would reduce the Covid-19 vaccination tally to around 200,000 daily.

He said it was a matter of concern as health workers would revert to Covid-19 immunisation soon after the MR vaccination ended after a fortnight.

The official said the health department had been giving Covid-19 shots to visitors to 700 centres in public sector hospitals across the province since Feb, but during the measles and rubella vaccination campaign, health workers wouldn’t be able to fully focus on coronavirus immunisation.

He said the anti-measles and rubella campaign would affect Covid-19 vaccination temporarily and not in the long run as the latter would continue.

The officials said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which faced both Covid-19 and dengue, was focusing on the protection of the people from measles and rubella due to their growing incidence, whereas the number of coronavirus and mosquito-borne disease were declining.

They said the Covid-19 vaccination would continue until the World Health Organisation asked Pakistan to stop it.

Officials said dengue continued to affect people in the province, mainly in Peshawar, while MR had been a province-wide public health issue for which health workers would stay engaged for two weeks only.

On Saturday, 143 more people were infected with the vector-borne disease and 128 of them lived in Peshawar.

Of the 9,234 cases reported in the province until now, 4,687 (50.7 per cent) were from Peshawar.

Officials also said coronavirus had affected 179,000 people in the province, including 65,099 (36.36 per cent) from Peshawar, the worst-hit district.

They said Peshawar had recorded 2,781 (48.03 per cent) of the overall 5,790 Covid-19 deaths reported in the province since early last year suggesting that that MR campaign will not affect anti-Covid-19 and dengue activities in the province in Peshawar, except for vaccination slowdown.

A health department report said three persons died of coronavirus and 66 more were infected with it in the province on Saturday.

The deaths were reported in Peshawar, Mardan and Swabi each. Peshawar recorded 29 new cases.

“Peshawar has been the dengue and Covid-19 epicentre. Most patients are tested in Khyber Medical University, Khyber Teaching Hospital, Lady Reading Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex, so diagnosis and management of both diseases wouldn’t be affected as these hospitals aren’t involved in the measles and rubella campaign,” an official said.

He said the MR campaign, which happened after two to three years, was meant to safeguard people against diseases, which would briefly decline Covid-19 vaccination rates.

Our correspondent adds from Bajaur: Additional deputy commissioner Zameen Khan Momand vaccinated a child against measles and rubella during a special ceremony at the deputy commissioner’s office in Civil Colony, Khar, on Saturday.

Officials said the vaccination campaign would formally begin tomorrow (Monday).

They said more than 570,000 children aged between nine months and 15 years would be vaccinated against measles and rubella across the district in 12 days.

The officials said 471 teams had been formed to carry out the campaign in health centres, guesthouses, schools and public places.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2021

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