Every parent or guardian can relate to the feeling of anguish and sometimes hopelessness they feel when a child in their care gets ill. Dealing with illness is never pleasant and it is inevitably a very trying time for the entire family.
Less than a hundred years ago such episodes could be deadly, however due to the miracle of modern medicine, society is better prepared to face and deal with illness. Today millions of lives are saved globally because of timely immunisation against various potentially debilitating and deadly diseases.
Children, especially the very young are most at risk from easily preventable diseases. It is therefore vital that they receive their immunisations. The benefits of immunisation are wide especially in developing countries such as ours where young children are still vulnerable to a number of childhood diseases.
It is against this backdrop of saving lives and protecting our children that the National Department of Health (NDoH) is currently carrying out two immunisation rounds. The first round which covers polio and measles began on 29 April 2013 and runs to 17 May 2013. The second round will cover only polio and will run between 17 and 28 June 2013.
While administering the immunizations is key, the NDoH also hopes to Inform and educate the public about the polio eradication and the measles elimination campaign.
Immunisation is free, during this period, children will be immunized at clinics. Professional nurses will also visit schools, crèches, informal settlements and other community places to bring this service closer to the people.
The campaign is targeting children below five years. In the first round children from 0 – 59 months will receive the oral polio vaccine (OPV) and children aged 9 to 59 months will get the measles injection. In the second round children from 0 to 59 months will receive a second dose of the OPV.
These immunisations are vital as both polio and measles can pose a serious health risk, especially to young children. Measles is a highly contagious disease that is usually seen in children, but can affect adolescents and adults as well. It is caused by a rubella virus.
Measles is airborne and is spread by droplets from respiratory secretions of infected persons; it is transmitted by breathing, coughing or sneezing, and also by direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus and most commonly affects children under the age of 5. The virus spreads from person to person by contaminated hands and food in areas with poor sanitation.
Officials from the NDoH are already hard at work with the campaign which has kicked off in several provinces. Speaking at the Thusanang Daycare Centre in Muldersdrift, on the West Rand on 30 April; Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo indicated that there are over 1 million children under the age of five in Gauteng, and that their target is to reach at least 95% by the end of the campaign.
Government calls on all parents and guardians to partner with us in this important campaign. It is vitally important that caregivers take their children for regular check-ups and vaccinations so that they are protected against illnesses. Together let us ensure the health and well-being of our children.
Phumla Williams is acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)