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Measles vaccination saves children from so many other diseases

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A Child with measles. Photo: Pixabay

Scientists have provided another reason to get vaccinated against measles. Researchers have found the measles virus makes kids’ immune systems “forget” most of what they have learned, leaving children vulnerable to other diseases for as long as three years.

The findings, published in the journal Science, help explain why deaths and illnesses from a range of diseases plummet in countries after they introduce measles vaccine campaigns.

“Our findings suggest that measles vaccines have benefits that extend beyond just protecting against measles itself,” said Michael Mina, a medical student at Emory University who worked on the study while doing postdoctoral research at Princeton University.

“It is one of the most cost-effective interventions for global health.”

““If you get measles, three years down the road, you could die from something that you would not die from had you not been infected with measles.” Health experts say pockets of well-to-do vaccine doubters can help fuel outbreaks when they delay vaccination or refuse to vaccinate their kids at all.

Many people who refuse measles vaccines argue that measles is a relatively harmless childhood disease, and some even argue that a “natural” infection somehow strengthens the immune system. The findings of this study suggest they are wrong in more ways than one.

“We already knew that measles attacks immune memory, and that it was immunosuppressive for a short amount of time. But this paper suggests that immune suppression lasts much longer than previously suspected,” said C. Jessica Metcalf, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton who worked on the study.

“In other words, if you get measles, three years down the road, you could die from something that you would not die from had you not been infected with measles.”

It is one of the reasons for global measles vaccination campaigns, and public health specialists have noticed something else happens after millions of kids in a country get vaccinated against measles: death rates from other infections go down, too.

The measles vaccine is usually delivered with two other vaccines – one against mumps, and another against rubella or German measles. But when they looked at the effects of pertussis vaccination alone, Mina’s team didn’t see the same effect.

Other studies have suggested that vaccines can have broader benefits than simply protecting against a single disease. For instance, rates of heart disease go down among people who have been immunized against influenza. One recent study shows flu vaccines stimulate production of molecules that protect the heart.

Meanwhile, the Anambra State government in partnership with United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) had on Thursday March 8, 2018 commenced measles vaccination and urged parents and guardians to ensure they avail their children and wards at the designated centres. The 12-day campaign would be concluded on March 20, 2018.

The State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano who flagged off the exercise at the Primary Health Centre Osumoghu, Ihiala Local Government area of the State noted that eligible children for the vaccination campaign are between nine months to five years.

He pointed out that they would concentrate more on some local government areas that have poor health indices such as Anambra East and West, Ayamelum, Awka North and Orumba North respectively.

He said, “Fixed posts will be established in public health facilities, missions and some private healthy facilities, temporary fixed posts including schools, churches, markets, mosques etc. Mothers/caregivers should take their children to the nearest immunization post for vaccination. Cards will be issued and should be retained for future use.”

Also, the Lagos State Government has said the 2018 Measles vaccination campaign for children between the age nine months and five years will hold in from Thursday 15th to Thursday 29th March, 2018.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Primary Health Care, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga who made this known Tuesday while briefing newsmen on the level of preparedness for the campaign noted that 3,609,538 children are being targeted during the vaccination campaign.


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