Iraq kicks off a national measles vaccination campaign

Health workers vaccinate Iraqi children against measles in central Baghdad. [Sabah Arar/AFP]

Health workers vaccinate Iraqi children against measles in central Baghdad. [Sabah Arar/AFP]

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The Iraqi Ministry of Health on Wednesday (December 5th) launched a national campaign to vaccinate children against measles.

Dr. Hassan Hadi Baqer, general director of public health for the ministry, told Mawtani the campaign is slated to last until the middle of the month and will extend to all the country's provinces.

"Our primary health centres, scattered across Iraq, are continually working on inoculating children against measles, in addition to sending vaccination teams on field visits to homes to follow up on those who may have missed immunisation," he said.

Through the campaign, officials seek to transition from controlling the disease to totally eradicating it, he said.

"The ministry has stockpiled large quantities of measles vaccines to meet the needs of the campaign period and afterwards," Baqer said, adding that the vaccines were imported from well-known international suppliers and subjected to tests at ministry laboratories.

The ministry also mobilised "numerous immunisation teams, including fixed groups within health centres, as well as mobile ones that carry the vaccination to children under the age of five in their homes or at schools", he said.

'Safe and potent' vaccines

Dr. Moatez Mohammed al-Jubury, director of the ministry's vaccinations programme, told Mawtani the campaign is to reach four and a half million children.

Those aged between six months and one year will be given a single-type measles vaccine, and children aged one to five years will be given mixed vaccines, he said.

"The vaccines are safe and potent, and proved successful in tests carried out by the ministry's centre for monitoring and drugs research, and they are certified by the World Health Organisation," al-Jubury said. "During the campaign, children will be given, in addition to these vaccines, doses of vitamin A to reinforce their immune systems."

He said the ministry has mobilised some 5,000 fixed and mobile health teams to carry out the vaccinations, with some travelling on foot within geographic areas near the health centres, and others taking vehicles to cover the residential areas far from these centres.

On-going efforts

Records indicate that around 27,000 Iraqi children were infected with measles between 2008 and 2010, according to al-Jubury.

"As a result of ceaseless efforts the ministry made to fight this disease, which is pandemic in Iraq, we were able to lower the incidence of the disease so that only one case was recorded this year, which is a major accomplishment," he said.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Iqbal, a member of the parliamentary health committee, welcomed the launch of the campaign.

"It was a good move on the part of the health ministry to completely wipe out this disease, taking Iraq back to its status as a country free of such viruses," he said.

It is important to reach as many Iraqi children as possible with this new campaign, using good quality and comprehensive vaccines with the ministry directly supervising the vaccination process, he said.

Iqbal also called on parents to help by co-operating with health teams to ensure the campaign's success.