LAHORE: The health department is starting a three-day measles campaign from May 22in the most adversely affected areas of the city, including Ravi, Samanabad and Data Ganj Bux towns.
As many as 54 confirmed measles cases were reported in two months, while hundreds of suspected patients were reported in five months from Lahore alone, The Express Tribune has learnt.
According to a health department official, at least 90% of measles cases were reported in these highly sensitive areas of the city. He added authorities were waiting for the reports of suspected patients from the National Institute of Health, Islamabad. Some of the least sensitive areas were Shalimar, Allama Iqbal and Nishtar Towns.
“Keeping this situation in view, the government is carrying out an urgent measles campaign,” he said. The official continued that in case the reports of suspected patients, numbering in the hundreds, tested positive, it would indicate a measles outbreak. The areas, including Gulberg, Cantonment, Aziz Bhatti and other towns were not listed as sensitive or highly sensitive. Therefore, no campaigns would be carried out in these union councils.
The health department formed 571 mobile teams at 169 permanent places where children below the age of 15 would be vaccinated. “The irony of this campaign is that the team will focus only on vaccinating kids below five,” he said, adding children above that will continue carrying the virus.
“During 2011-12 and even 2013 campaigns, we vaccinated children below the age of 10. However, due to the shortage of funds this time around, only children below the age of five will be vaccinated,” he said. “Teams will also get an honorarium for performing duties.”
When contacted, Expanded Programme on Immunisation Director Dr Munir Ahmed said the health department was carrying out the measles campaign in highly sensitive areas after 54 positive cases were reported from parts of Lahore.
However, he refuted the claim that there was a shortage of funds. Munir added the government planned a mass immunisation campaign in 2018 with the help of UNICEF and WHO recommendations. “There is no outbreak of measles and everything is under control,” he claimed. “It is just small step to wipe out the disease.” He claimed that the previous campaign ensure that no death was reported in Lahore due to this disease. “There is no emergency-like situation and the drive is just a preventive measure,” he said.
In 2011, according to official documents, the number of suspected measles cases reported in Pakistan was 4,380, out of which 2,533 were confirmed. Meanwhile, in 2012, the figure of suspected cases rose to 12,354, out of which 2,975 were confirmed.
A major outbreak of measles was reported in Punjab in 2012 with 1,152 confirmed cases, compared to 898 in 2011.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2017.