Haufiku rubbishes vaccination misinformation

14 Jul 2016 18:00pm
WINDHOEK, 14 JUL (NAMPA) - Minister of Health and Social Services Bernhard Haufiku has rubbished information circulating on social media that measles and rubella vaccination causes HIV/Aids.
The Health Ministry is busy vaccinating people aged between nine months and 39 years against measles and rubella in a countrywide campaign which ends 22 July.
Speaking in the National Assembly on Thursday, Haufiku said such information is misleading and described it as “malicious and unfounded”.
“I saw the information has an Affirmative Repositioning (AR) tag, but I could not get hold of Job Amupanda of the AR to confirm whether that information is coming from them.”
He explained that a study conducted with the technical support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that there is high susceptibility to measles infection and continued circulation of the measles virus in the age groups up to 39 years of age in Namibia.
The measles epidemiological trend has shown that there is an annual seasonal measles outbreak from August to November among the population, and the number of measles cases is increasing every year.
The minister noted that the high susceptibility to measles infection is due to historically low measles vaccination coverage, which needs to be 95 per cent or higher in order to achieve 'herd immunity' and thus prevent the measles virus from spreading from person to person.
Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious diseases that occur when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune.
Namibia recorded measles coverage vaccination of 82 per cent in 2013; 86 per cent in 2014; and 85 per cent in 2015.
Haufiku informed the House that for an effective response, the WHO expects countries to sustain the routine measles vaccination coverage at 95 per cent or above to prevent measles outbreaks. If 95 per cent coverage is not sustained or reached for two consecutive years, then there is a high possibility for a measles outbreak in subsequent years.
To avoid such an outbreak, the WHO advises countries with low coverage to conduct large-scale measles vaccination campaigns countrywide every third year.
Measles is an acute, highly communicable viral disease, which is more severe in the very young and in malnourished children and may lead to death.
Rubella is an acute contagious viral infection and the infection of a pregnant woman can result in abortion, stillbirth and Congenital Rubella Syndrome of the child.
According to Haufiku, the risk for this is very high, since 85 per cent of babies exposed to rubella in the first trimester of pregnancy are born with birth defects which have very high social cost implications.