Measles Outbreak: No Need To Panic Says Health Minister

A confirmed case in Vatuwaqa makes it 10 confirmed cases of measles in the country, so far.
24 Nov 2019 13:14
Measles Outbreak: No Need To Panic Says Health Minister
Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete . Photo: Ronald Kumar

No need to panic says the Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete as a confirmed case was identified in Samabula.

A confirmed case in Vatuwaqa makes it 10 confirmed cases of measles in the country, so far.

Dr Waqainabete said the vaccination programme was playing a key role in preventing the spread of the disease.

“There are two ways to see it. Number one is that we believe the Samabula case was exposed to somebody from Navua,” he said.

“Number two is that we have herd immunity, which means that the majority of the population is immune.”

Dr Waqainabete said five per cent of Fiji’s population was not immune and now work was being done to identify who these people were.

“We are going through our books. We are trying to find out who the children are who did not finish their vaccination. We are trying to find them and immunize them,” he said.

“Those who are actually adults in the 20-40 age group. It is very difficult for us to find them.”

The Serua and Namosi areas are where the measles cases are originating from and the Ministry of Health is trying to contain it there.

All areas in the two provinces have been visited and the ministry has recorded a 100 per cent vaccination rate after the disease was first detected.

“We had a child who came to visit his family in Serua and caught measles. It is picking up people who have either low immunity or those who have not completed their vaccination,” the minister said.

“Our staff are trying to identify these Fijians. They are finding their addresses and contacts and going to them to vaccinate them.”

Mass vaccination will continue when the 200,000 doses from Copenhagen, Denmark, arrive on Tuesday.

Dr Waqainabete clarified that the ministry could only stock up to 100,000 cases because the vaccines needed to be stored at certain temperatures and getting more than the storage capacity would be wastage.

Wrong reports in overseas media:

A report in an overseas media organisation stated that the country’s vaccination rate was just 84 per cent. Dr Waqainabete is not pleased with this wrong report.

“I have just seen an article on Al Jazeera, which is saying Tonga has 99 per cent vaccination rate and ours is 83 per cent. This is wrong. According to UNICEF and WHO, we have 94 per cent or more,” he said.

“What is funny to me is that if Tonga had a 99 per cent vaccination rate. Why is it that they have such high measles cases for such a small population?

“We are very pedantic about vaccinations. We give vaccinations in school and those who miss out we go to their homes. There are still parents who do not want their children to be vaccinated.

“Now we are seeing from what is happening in Samoa as a result of their low immunization rate.”

Mass gatherings:

Dr Waqainabete said mass gatherings include movement of people within and across different provinces. The ministry is advising against this.

“One thing we must exercise is wisdom and caution. With mass gatherings people come from a lot of geographical areas and go back, for example when you have a big gathering, people come in from the North, Moala and other islands,” he said.

“Church gatherings are people from the same community. There is no law for us to enforce against mass gatherings. You can see what is happening in Samoa, that now you have a State of Emergency, they are able to enforce the law, we strongly advise against mass gatherings.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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