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Tanzania, 18 October 2014: UNICEF, WHO and Gavi join forces to launch massive rubella-measles immunization drive

© UNICEF Tanzania/2014/Holt
Tanzania is the second country in eastern and southern Africa to introduce a dual vaccine to protect children against both measles and rubella.

Tanzania is staging the largest measles–rubella vaccination campaign the country has ever seen.

18 October 2014, DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – The Government of Tanzania, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and other partners will today launch a national immunization campaign to protect 21 million children against measles and rubella. The 2014 campaign will be integrated with other interventions including Vitamin A, deworming, and mass treatment for Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The campaign is one of the largest public health intervention efforts ever staged in Tanzania. It is engaging thousands of vaccinators and volunteers, covering more than 12,000 schools and 6,600 health facilities over a one-week period. All children aged between nine months and 14 years will be able to receive the vaccine through the campaign. The dual vaccine will become part of the government’s routine immunization strategy from 2014 onwards. This is an implementation of the Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan 2012 -2020 to protect and improve the lives of children and their mothers throughout the world, rapidly and sustainably to achieve a world without measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome.

In addition, vitamin A supplement will be given to children aged six months to five years, children aged one to five years will get deworming tablets and children above five years and adults in 16 regions across Tanzania will receive treatment for Neglected Tropical Diseases (e.g. elephantiasis, hydrocele and river blindness).

“The measles-rubella campaign is another opportunity of ensuring good immunity of children who have completed their immunization schedule; and reach unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children”, says Dr. Seif Rashi, Minister of Health and Social Welfare.

“WHO is pleased to be part of this massive campaign where more than 21 million children will be vaccinated against measles and Rubella and more than 27 million people will get medicine for prevention or treatment of neglected tropical diseases. It is a challenging public health undertaking but we know the health workforce and volunteers are ready to deliver and reach every child and adult”, Dr. Rufaro Chatora, the WHO Representative in Tanzania, says.

Measles is a highly contagious disease which is often fatal. Global efforts have seen large decreases in the number of deaths from measles over the past decade, but the disease still claimed more than 120,000 lives in 2012, the equivalent of 14 deaths every hour. Rubella, while less frequently fatal, can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, leading to severe birth defects and disabilities.

The two diseases display the similar symptoms of fever and skin rash, and both are highly contagious. Measles can be deadly for children with poor nutrition and a weakened immune system. It causes about 430 deaths per day worldwide, mainly in developing countries. Rubella may cause miscarriage or severe birth defects known as congenital rubella syndrome, if a woman contracts it during the first trimester of pregnancy. An estimated 100,000 children around the world are born with this syndrome each year.

“Children across Tanzania will benefit from protection against these two potentially deadly diseases,” said Gavi’s CEO, Dr Seth Berkley. “Our aim is to reach more than 600 million boys and girls with this Gavi-supported vaccine through both campaign and routine by 2020, reducing the number of deaths from measles but also the devastating disabilities caused by rubella.”

“The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has yet again demonstrated its commitment to ensure that children survive and thrive. I urge parents and communities to bring their children to the health facilities across the country so that these children get the free services’, says Dr. Jama Gulaid, UNICEF’s Representative in Tanzania.

Partners such as the John Snow Inc. Maternal and Child Health Integrated Programme (JSI/MCHIP), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Red Cross and Lions Club volunteers, are working with the Tanzanian Government and other in-country partners, including UNICEF and WHO, to raise awareness of the campaign and support health workers with community outreach. This includes targeted activities such as working alongside vaccinators and sharing relevant information materials with parents and caregivers.

Other donors and government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) of Canada and the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ) continue to support the Government efforts to strengthen the immunisation programme.

“Lions are committed to the fight against measles and rubella in Tanzania and around the world,” said Lions Clubs International Foundation Chairperson Barry Palmer. “We’re raising funds. We’re actively supporting campaigns in communities impacted by the diseases. And we’re looking forward to accomplishing more through our partnership with Gavi.”

Serum Institute of India (SII) has donated 5.5 million doses of the measles-rubella vaccine to Gavi to support the Tanzanian campaign. The manufacturer agreed in 2013 to donate a total of 22 million measles-rubella vaccine doses to Gavi over a period of four years.

As part of these efforts, UNICEF provided technical support in proposal development and preparations for the campaign including micro-planning, transportation and communication activities. Other activities supported by UNICEF included timely ordering and delivery of measles-rubella vaccines, injection materials and other supplies. UNICEF has also supported $413,000 worth of cold chain equipment to health facilities.

Through this effort, Tanzania is the second country in eastern and southern Africa to introduce a dual vaccine to protect children against both measles and rubella.

 

About WHO: WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats.

About UNICEF: UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Tanzania visit: www.unicef.org/tanzania ; www.facebook.com/UNICEFTanzania

About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. Gavi uses innovative finance mechanisms, including co-financing by recipient countries, to secure sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines. Since 2000, Gavi has contributed to the immunisation of an additional 440 million children and the prevention of approximately 6 million future deaths. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is funded by governments (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States), the European Commission, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., the A&A Foundation, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Club International Foundation, and Vodafone). To access broadcast-quality footage from the Gavi library, please visit: http://www.gavi-video.org/content/index.asp

Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service organisation and a Gavi Matching Fund partner. Its Foundation has committed US$ 6 million toward immunisation in Tanzania, which has been matched through the Gavi Matching Fund to bring the total to US$ 12 million for the initiative. Lions Clubs has pledged in total US$ 30 million to Gavi to help fight measles and rubella in the world poorest countries. Lions Clubs has further committed to deploy their 1.35 million volunteers worldwide to raise awareness and mobilise communities to support measles and rubella elimination goals.
 

For further information, including interviews, please contact:

Sandra Bisin, UNICEF Tanzania, Mobile: +255 787 600079, sbisin@unicef.org

Frederique Tissandier, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Phone: + 41 22 909 29 68, Mobile: +41 79 300 8253 ftissandier@gavialliance.org

 

 
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