In the Congo, accelerated measles vaccination to save children’s lives

Ingrid Enganga is a widow. Added to the grief of losing her husband in June 2021 was the loss of her daughter in March 2022. The memory of this loss is still bright in his memory.

“I lost my little girl for lack of knowledge. He was five months old and had not been vaccinated against the disease, and I have never seen a child get measles, so I did not control the symptoms, ”he told us. “He started vomiting severely followed by fever and diarrhea. Everything happened very quickly, ”he added.

To address the resurgence of measles across the national territory, the Extended Immunization Program (EPI) is creating a response across the national region focusing on vaccinating children aged 6 months to 9 years.

After observing all these symptoms, the widow decides to take her child to a private medical center, where she will be referred to the structure of a large hospital in the town of Point-Nair, where measles will be diagnosed. After hesitation, he finally admits that little patient care has been taken, but a care that has turned out to be late.

“Since he had diarrhea, it was impossible to keep him in the drip. He was kept on oxygen because he did not move. I noticed a wound in her buttocks, and a treatment was prescribed for her. “Unfortunately, this treatment did not affect him because a week after he was admitted to the hospital, he left us,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Health, the Pointe-Noir division, the economic capital of the country, is the epicenter of the epidemic with 5,488 notified cases including 112 deaths. And to address the resurgence of measles across national regions, the Extended Immunization Program (EPI) is creating a response across the national region focusing on vaccinating children aged 6 months to 9 years. Dr. Alexis Muro Moyoka, Medical Colonel and Pediatrician, is responsible for EPI in the Republic of Congo. He explains:

“From July 30 to August 5, 2022, we will launch this response that will target children aged 6 months to 9 years. The aim of the campaign is to reach 95% of the targeted children, or 1,243,000 children, through the implementation of various strategies, ”he said.

Dr. Alexis Muro. Credit: Rosie Piot

Among the strategies adopted to achieve the expected results are to deploy teams to reach out to children living within a radius of 5 to 20 kilometers from the EPI vaccination center and beyond to vaccinate health centers and additional posts such as schools, markets, bus stations, etc.

What is the explanation for this resurgence of measles in the Republic of Congo?

The main reason for explaining the resurgence of the current epidemic is the low vaccination coverage due to the health crisis caused by the Kovid-19 epidemic, which has resulted in a significant increase in the number of vulnerable children, said Dr. Alexis Muro.

“National vaccination coverage increased from 69 to 79% between 2017 and 2019, an increase of 10 points in two years. But the onset of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic has reduced national vaccination coverage to 73% in 2020, ”the doctor added.

To avoid similar situations in the future, prevention is essential.

To succeed in tackling this resurgence, the country’s health authorities plan to integrate five pillars, including community involvement, vaccination, epidemiological surveillance, as well as the provision of quality vaccines and assistance in vaccination.

The material means that have been put in place for the success of this campaign need to include humanitarian means that will be used, such as health workers, opinion leaders such as religious, community leaders, NGOs …

The response to the measles epidemic has been coordinated with a comprehensive anti-yellow fever campaign, targeting all people aged 9 months to 60 years and taking place in Congo’s 52 health districts.

To avoid similar situations in the future, prevention is essential. To this end, it is important for vaccinators not only to strengthen routine immunization, epidemiological surveillance and communication, but also to ensure that the community adheres to and maintains a broad-based vaccine response to the epidemic. Vaccination schedule for routine vaccinations, concludes pediatrics.

For Ingrid Enganga, the Ministry of Health confirmed last April that most of the deaths during this resuscitation occurred among people admitted late to care centers after failure of self-medication or traditional practice.

“I had kids who got sick, but measles is really a serious disease. He has killed many children around me and in my house, ”concluded the widow Naganga.

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