Free measles and polio vaccination

With free measles and polio vaccinations hosted by the Department of Health scheduled for April through to June, the Self-Medication Association of South Africa (SMASA) urges all new parents to have their infants vaccinated.

The danger of vaccine myths

Measles and poliomyelitis (polio) are highly infectious diseases that can cause life-long health complications, and even death. Allison Vienings, Executive Director of SMASA, says South Africa experienced an outbreak of more than 2000 cases of measles in 2009 due to the belief that these vaccines lead to autism. Four people died as a result.

In 2014, the United States faced the worst measles outbreak in years with a reported 644 cases, which is due to people being unvaccinated. Experts have continuously discredited the link between autism and the measles vaccination.

“As long as these diseases are around, they will remain some of the most prevalent killers in the world and a threat to all who aren’t vaccinated,” she says. “SMASA urges every South African parent to visit their local healthcare professional or clinic for more information about the immunisation campaigns, and to avoid factors that may contribute to the spread of these diseases.”

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Measles: What you need to know

Measles remains one of the leading causes of death amongst young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, whereas polio affects the most vulnerable, with 95 percent of outbreaks occurring in developing countries.

In an effort to eliminate these deadly diseases, the South African Department of Health (DoH) carries out two national polio and measles immunisation rounds every year and strongly advises mothers to protect their children by getting them vaccinated soon after birth.

Throughout these designated periods, vaccinations are free of charge at all public health facilities. The dates for the immunisation rounds for 2015 are as follows:

  • 29 April – 17 May: Polio and Measles
  • 17– 28 June: Polio

In 2006 the overall routine immunisation coverage for South Africa was less than 80 percent with some districts still having less than 60 percent immunisation coverage. The World Health Organisation (WHO) continuously supports the department to successfully carry out the planned immunisation campaigns.

Measles vaccination worldwide has resulted in a 75 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013, which prevented an estimated 15,6 million deaths.

Symptoms of measles

  • High fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts for up to four to seven days.
  • A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage.
  • After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Polio: What you need to know

Initiatives by WHO has reduced poliomyelitis (polio) occurrence by 99 percent since 1988 from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 416 reported cases in 2013. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, while between five and ten percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilised.

Symptoms of polio

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread, mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs.

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