Measles and Polio vaccination campaigns resume despite COVID-19 disruptions

The Ministry of Public Health launches the second phase of the National Measles and Polio Immunization Campaign in partnership with WHO andUNICEF

October 14, 2020 – The Ministry of Public Health, in partnership with WHO and UNICEF, announced today the beginning of the second phase of the national measles and polio immunization campaign. The campaign will be piloted till the 25th of October in Keserwan and Hasbaya districts and will be followed by the rest of the governorates and districts (Beirut, Mount Lebanon, Bekaa, the South and Nabatiyeh) starting the 2nd of November till end of year.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the delivery of immunization services was disrupted threatening to reverse the hard-won progress in reaching children with essential vaccines. Weakening measles immunity has been a growing risk across Lebanon since 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic has further fueled a significant decline in immunization rates, exacerbating existing disruptions in health care delivery leaving children more vulnerable to diseases that are preventable through immunization.

Following the completion of the first phase back in December 2019 in Akkar, North, Baalbeck- Hermel governorates, the second phase of the measles and polio campaign will be conducted in 5 governorates – Beirut, Mount Lebanon, Bekaa, South and Nabatieh – targeting children between the age of 6 months until completion of 10 years. The vaccination campaign will be conducted in Primary Health Care Centers, dispensaries and temporary vaccination sites.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Hamad Hassan, launched the campaign, stressing that “The second phase of the campaign will be conducted in compliance with the COVID 19 precautionary measures. All vaccinators team have been trained on Infection, Prevention and Control Measures and equipped with Protective Personal Equipment. Temporary vaccination sites have been chosen in open spaces, and the setup is carefully disinfected to make immunization safe of any contamination. Children and their caregivers will be screened for COVID-19 at vaccination points and any suspected cases referred directly for medical screening. Optimal Infection, Prevention and Control measures will be implemented in all vaccination points to minimize COVID-19 transmission”

“It is critical not to lose the gains in vaccination coverage that Lebanon achieved over the past decade. WHO is supporting the measles vaccination campaign to ensure children can be spared this avoidable and preventable serious disease. No child should be left behind, health protection and disease prevention is a human right,” said Samar Hammoud, Officer-in-charge on behalf of WHO Representative in Lebanon Dr Iman Shankiti.

“In today context, where COVID 19 already fragilise the whole population, it is of foremost importance that we at best protect children, and boost their immunity against disease we know, like measles or polio and for which we have vaccine who save children,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “Although we have experienced new challenges and a setback in the fight against vaccine preventable diseases because of COVID-19, we have tried to constantly maintain immunization services. Together, we are committed to reaching every child and vaccination campaigns will get back on track.”

Dr. Randa Hamadeh, Head of the Primary Health Care Department at the Ministry of Public Health, talked about the importance of the campaign, saying that ” 1.5 million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Furthermore, The Corona pandemic caused a decline in child immunization rates, reaching a decline rate of 47% in Lebanon. The challenges are countless to bring back the vaccination indicators to their state before the corona pandemic (above 96%), and this can only be achieved by joint efforts between the vaccination program in the PHC Department of the Ministry of Public Health, WHO, UNICEF and our partners from the private health sector. This is the time of solidarity and action, so let us work together to reach all children, no matter their nationalities. This is their right, and this is our responsibility!”

The national immunization campaign is funded through the generous support of the Kuwait Fund for Development and is targeting a total of 364,130 children aged between 6 months until completion of 10 years old.  Already 231,200 were reached last December in Baalbek Hermel, North and Akkar.  We are now reaching out to BML, South Nabatieh, Bekaa. All children will also receive vaccination with bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine. Children will be reached in primary healthcare centers/dispensaries and temporary vaccination sites.

About WHO

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