The national Immunisation Awareness Week began on Monday, with various district activities designed to inform the public about the success and benefits of the early childhood vaccination programme in controlling vaccine preventable diseases. In a statement, the health department on Friday said the awareness week coincided with Child Health Week (also 6 - 12 August), and is an integral part of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in South Africa (EPI(SA)) implemented by the national Department of Health.
National Immunisation Awareness Week follows a recent strategic EPI workshop, which also formed part of the initiative sponsored by Aventis Pasteur. This workshop identified some of the critical issues to the continual improvement of EPI (SA) which were presented in an EPI action plan.
The department said South Africa had already adopted the global strategies for polio eradication and measles elimination based on three principles. Firstly, routine immunisation of children under one year of age against polio and measles should reach at least 90 percent of this age group, in all provinces. Secondly, mass immunisation campaigns are conducted from time to time, to interrupt transmission of Polio and Measles viruses rapidly in the target age group. The third principle of the strategy to achieve polio eradication and measles elimination is to actively detect, report and investigate suspected cases of polio, also called acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and measles. In order to meet the criteria for polio free certification and measles elimination, investigation of cases include laboratory support to confirm or discard each suspected case of AFP and measles.
It added that measles decreased dramatically from about 22 000 cases and 53 deaths in 1992, to 37 laboratory confirmed cases and no deaths in 2000, a direct result of the measles elimination strategy. (Source: SAPA, 3 August 2001)