The Health department will launch a special mass campaign to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Malappuram, where a measles outbreak has resulted in over 125 cases in certain pockets in the district this month.
The department has already launched control measures as well as engaging with local bodies to interact with the public and to allay apprehensions. The disease has been reported in many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children in various age groups as well as adults, Health officials said.
With measles outbreaks being reported from Maharashtra, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand and now in Kerala, the Centre has despatched special teams to all these States to investigate the outbreaks and help State governments launch control measures. The experts’ team to Kerala is expected to arrive soon.
The sudden upsurge in measles is seen as a fallout of the drop in routine immunisation activities during the pandemic. Though the State had launched catch-up immunisation drives across all districts, in Malappuram, various factors, including the shortage of field workers and some adverse campaigns linked to COVID vaccination seemed to have affected the drive to improve routine immunisation coverage, sources at the Health department said.
In the aftermath of Zika outbreaks, the Health department had launched a surveillance programme for fever with rashes. Samples collected are thus sent for detailed investigations to identify the infectious organism and it was because of the intensive surveillance that measles cases could be picked up as soon as cases began to be reported in Malappuram earlier this month, officials said..
However, given the highly infectious nature of the disease, the endemic transmission of the measles virus seems to have re-established itself in the unvaccinated pockets in the district fast.
At a time when the nation is striving to achieve Measles and Rubella Elimination by 2023 and has already drawn up a road map to achieve this goal, the measles outbreaks in the post-pandemic phase are being taken seriously.
Meanwhile, the Additional Director of Health Services (Public Health), K. Sakeena, will visit Malappuram over the weekend and conduct a situational analysis and coordinate control measures. The WHO representative in charge of the State is also making field visits in the district and assessing the situation.
Measles is a highly contagious disease and it can lead to complications in children below five years of age and adults.
In a statement, Health Minister Veena George said that the entire State was on the alert and that the situation in Malappuram was being watched closely. She appealed to the public to ensure that the MR vaccine is administered to children.