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Vaccination drive targets three million people

[Turkmenistan] Mass vaccination keeps children healthy.
The measles and rubella campaign will target two million children and youth and one million women (IRIN)

A nationwide campaign to immunise three million people against measles and rubella has been launched, targeting two million children and youth (aged seven to 23) and one million women.

“This landmark vaccination campaign will allow children, youth and women of fertile age to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, such as rubella and measles,” said Maral Aksakova, head of the Turkmen health ministry’s epidemiological department.

The Turkmen Ministry of Health and Medical Industry - supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the Zdrav Plus project of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – launched the two-week drive on 12 November.

“Following the recommendations of WHO and UNICEF, starting from January 2007 Turkmenistan introduced a new vaccine – Mumps/Measles/Rubella [MMR], in its routine immunisation schedule. The MMR vaccination is expected to bring further gains in the reduction of childhood illnesses and disability [in the country],” Abdul Alim, deputy head of the UNICEF office in Turkmenistan, told IRIN from the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat.

According to WHO, measles remains a leading cause of death among children, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine for the past 40 years. An estimated 345,000 people died from measles in 2005.

Vaccination is the only cost-effective way of preventing congenital rubella infection, which often causes blindness, deafness and mental retardation. The vaccination against rubella is even more effective when used with measles vaccines, Alim said.

The vaccination drive will be conducted by 3,000 teams at health facilities, schools and workplaces across the country, according to UNICEF.

The incidence of measles is reported to be low in Turkmenistan. “However, there are outbreaks that occur periodically. The last measles outbreak was registered in Turkmenistan in 2005, when 498 cases were officially reported” by the Turkmen health ministry, said Alim, noting that no information on rubella was available.

The introduction of MMR into routine immunisation, which has already been accomplished, coupled with mass measles and rubella awareness-raising campaigns, and strengthening the surveillance of diseases – which are in progress - are key to tackling the issue, Alim added.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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