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3-Day Polio, Measles Vaccination Campaign Launched in Uganda

Uganda on Saturday launched a three-day polio and measles immunization campaign, Possy Mugyenyi, the country’s immunization manager, said, UGPulse.com reports (Nyanzi, UGPulse.com, 6/5). More than 6 million children are being targeted, IRIN reports (IRIN, 6/5).

Uganda’s Ministry of Health, the WHO, UNICEF and Red Cross in Uganda are supporting the campaign, which aims to vaccinate children between the ages of 47 months and nine years against measles and children younger than age five against polio. Measles kills more children in Uganda than any other “vaccine-preventable disease,” AfricaNews reports (AfricaNews, 6/6). Since February, about 2,000 polio cases have been confirmed in Uganda after the country had basically eradicated the disease for more than a decade, Mugyenyi said (UGPulse.com, 6/5).  

“Immunizing children is a national and, indeed, a global public good that benefits everyone,” Keith McKenzie, the UNICEF representative in Uganda, said. “This is not the time for complacency; this is a time to accelerate toward that good” (AfricaNews, 6/6). “To get rid of childhood diseases like polio and measles, we need to achieve 100 percent coverage,” Paul Kaggwa, health ministry spokesman, said. “We are now getting many measles cases due to low immunization coverage” (IRIN, 6/5).

Government Could Use Legal Efforts To Force Parents To Get Children Immunized, Health Ministry Spokesman Says

Kaggwa said the government might use the “law to rein in parents” who do not get their children immunized during the campaign, Ultimate Media/UGPulse.com reports. “We are considering resorting to the law to compel parents to take their children for immunization,” Kaggwa said (Ultimate Media/UGPulse.com, 6/6). He added, “We can charge parents under the Public Health Act, the Penal Code Act and the Children’s Statute. Refusing to immunize a baby infringes its right to health and at the same time exposes other children to infections” (IRIN, 6/5).

After the campaign started, “[t]housands of parents” from around the country “jammed immunisation centres” and “rushed their children” to receive polio and measles vaccines, New Vision reports. Mugyenyi said, “The turn-up on day one was overwhelming,” and added that there was a shortage of vaccines at some sites on the first day because of distribution issues. “We had given an equal amount of vaccines to all sub-counties. After the high turn-up in some areas, we had to redistribute,” he said (New Vision, 6/7).