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Mass Immunization Campaign at Deben Clinic

Speech by the Honorable MEC of Health, Mr Mxolisi Sokatsha on the occasion of the launch of the Mass Immunization Campaign at Deben Clinic, John Taolo Gaetsewe District – Northern Cape

06 April 2010 – 11H00

Good morning to all. Today we launching the Mass Immunization Campaign and it is a great honor and privilege for me to be part of this event. I want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate everyone involved in organizing this important event.

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Furthermore, I want to convey my gratitude and bid all our health professionals all the best during the campaign to ensure we reach all our children across the province and provide them with the necessary immunizations.

As the ANC led government of South-Africa, we have an obligation towards the healthcare of our people. In this light, as a response the call of our people during the April 2009 elections, health has been prioritized as the one of the five key areas together with crime, education, rural development and job creation.

The future of our country lies in our children. As government, as leaders, as communities and as parents it is our civic duty to ensure the health and the rights of our children are upheld at all times. As stated in the Constitution under Chapter 2 : the Bill of Rights: “Every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter, basic healthcare services and social services”

Ladies and gentlemen, South-Africa, as part of the global community, also has the responsibility towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals(MDG’s) by 2015. This mass immunization campaign is a direct response towards goal four of the MDG’s namely the reduction of child mortality. It is the responsibility of us all to be part of and support government health initiatives and programmes aimed at addressing the healthcare challenges faced by our country and our province. It is through working together, that we can more and achieve our desired results and successes.

As part of the global Polio Eradication and Measles Elimination, the World Health organization (WHO) requires countries to conduct periodic national immunization campaigns – also known as National Immunization Days (NIDs), over and above the normal routine immunization activities that take place. In line with the above, South Africa is planning a National Campaign for April and May 2010 to include immunizing children against Measles and Polio and to provide Vitamin A and deworming to our children.

Today, we are calling upon all to assist and be part of this very important campaign. South Africa had more cases of measles in the years 2009 to 2010 than the years before that. If not controlled we may see more cases of measles. Measles can be a serious disease. It can cause blindness, hearing problems, brain damage, pneumonia and even death. Right now, many children have received one or two doses of measles vaccine during their first two years. Those doses work in about 9 out of 10 children. Outbreaks may still occur amongst those that were not immunized or amongst those in whom the vaccine did not work.

Programme director, the current number of measles cases per district are Frances Baard-61, Siyanda-15, Pixley-Ka-Seme-63, Namaqua-0 and John Taolo Gaetsewe-3. The cases are increasing daily. More children under 6 months are testing positive for measles in the province.
Mop-up immunizations are being done in areas where clusters are found.

Ladies and gentlemen, from 12 to 23 April 2010, nurses will be visiting all children in schools and crèches during the immunization campaign to give children 0 to 5 years an extra dose polio drops and for children 9 months to under 14 years an extra dose measles vaccine. During 24 to 28 May 2010, children 1 to under 5 years will receive Vitamin A and Deworming tablets as well as a follow-up dose of polio drops for children 0 to under 5 years.

Both measles and polio vaccine have been used in South Africa for more than 15 years. A few people may get a slight fever or rash 7 to 10 days after the measles injection is given. Serious side effects from the vaccines are very rare – a lot more rare than the serious side effects of the disease itself. Remember, we can stop the suffering and death caused by measles and polio by having our children immunized.

By protecting the small numbers of children 6 to 9 months of age could potentially improve herd immunity over a larger age group as well as minimize morbidity and mortality from measles disease, assisting the province to improve the reaching of the Millennium Development Goals. Parents are urged to bring their children for their routine immunization as this immunizations are only supplementary doses that will be given.

Ladies and gentlemen, included in the campaign this year, is the Influenza A/H1N1 vaccination. The H1N1 (2009) pandemic influenza is a new virus and virtually everyone is susceptible to infection from it. The first pandemic influenza patient to be diagnosed in the Northern Cape Province was from the John Taolo Gaetsewe District. As of 12 February 2010, a total of 12 640 laboratory confirmed pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009 cases and 93 deaths had been identified since the introduction of the novel strain in April 2009. The Northern Cape Province confirmed 133 cases through laboratories and reported three deaths.

The flu pandemic is not over yet. Flu should never be dismissed as ‘just flu’. It is a serious disease and while most cases are mild, some can be deadly. For the past flu season, most flu cases has been caused by the 2009 H1N1 virus, which was first identified in April 2009 and caused the first flu pandemic in 40 years.

The first and most important step is to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best protection against contracting flu and is provided at no cost by the government and is available at your local clinic or hospital. The vaccine will boost your immunity against influenza and will ensure good public health as the pandemic evolves. Priority groups for vaccination include the following:

* Pregnant women
* Children from 6 months to under 15 years who are HIV and AIDS positive
* People over 15 years with HIV and AIDS on ARV
* Frontline health workers like doctors, nurses and EMS practitioners working in casualty departments, intensive care units, 24 hour health centres.
* Patients with chronic heart and lung diseases.
* Health workers

The vaccines are safe in children and pregnant women. It is also important to know that the following people should not be vaccinated:

* People with hypersensitive reactions (allergic reactions)
* Children under 6 months
* People with a history of severe reaction to previous influenza vaccination
* People with allergy to eggs – including swelling of lips and tongue or had breathing problems or convulsions after eating eggs.

Programme director, the epidemiology of pandemic influenza in South Africa might differ from that described elsewhere for numerous reasons. Firstly, the country is burdened with a high prevalence of other infectious diseases such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV) and Tuberculosis(TB). Secondly, there is a significant burden of non-communicable conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Thirdly, there are large numbers of pregnant women who may be at risk. Fourthly, importation of the novel influenza virus into South Africa occurred during winter months when seasonal influenza epidemics are typically observed between May and September. Finally, the 2010 soccer world cup games will create favorable conditions for the importation of influenza.

The first phase is starting today for frontline health workers i.e. doctors, nurses and EMS personnel in casualty units and 24 hour centres, ICU staff and children from 6 months to under 15 years with HIV and AIDS till 2nd May 2010. The second phase for people over 15 years with HIV and AIDS, pregnant women, chronic heart and lung patients and health workers, correctional services and military services personnel will start on 3rd May – 31 May 2010.

The trivalent vaccine will also be available for commercial purchase within the private sector. It is therefore important that all facets of the health sector begin to prepare for the 2010 influenza season and the vaccination campaign.

A multi-sectoral steering committee was established who finalized training of coordinators, primary health care staff, infection control practitioners and health promoters in all five districts.

There are some challenges pertaining to the campaign namely social mobilization material, the timing of the H1N1 vaccine campaign coincides with measles and polio campaign and will impact on logistics and availability of cold chain capacity and low production and availability of the vaccines.

This mass immunization campaign is part of government’s efforts targeted at our children to ensure they grow up healthy and receives the necessary medication and interventions to live healthy. As government, together with civil society and especially our parents, we must ensure that our children and babies receive these immunizations.

Working together, we can do more!

Thank you!



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