Abu Dhabi begins free MMR vaccination campaign amid increase in measles cases worldwide

It will be available at 58 health centres across the capital and in Al Ain, and Al Dhafra

Measles cases rose 79 per cent last year, the World Health Organisation said in February.  AFP
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Parents in Abu Dhabi are being urged to ensure their children, aged between one and five years old, are vaccinated against measles after an increase in cases around the world.

Launched by the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, the free MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccination drive will run for three weeks, starting from Tuesday.

While measles can affect children of any age, those under five years are seen to be most susceptible.

An additional dose of the MMR vaccine has also been advised for the age group, even if previously vaccinated, for additional protection.

It will be available at 58 health centres in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Dhafra.

The campaign is in response to a warning issued by the World Health Organisation over a 30-fold increase in the cases of measles across 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia last year, compared to 2022.

According to the data released by the WHO, measles cases in Europe's 41 nations reached 42,200 last year, which is about 45 times the number in 2022. About one in five cases were in people aged older than 20.

Between 2020 and 2022, 1.8 million infants in these 41 countries did not get their measles vaccination, according to the organisation.

Experts have attributed an increase in cases of measles to a disruption of childhood measles vaccination programmes due to the pandemic. The US Centres for Disease Control said more than 61 million doses of measles vaccines were postponed or missed from 2020 to 2022.

“Vaccination is the only way to protect children from this potentially dangerous disease,” Dr Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, had said, urging countries to take “urgent vaccination efforts to halt transmission and prevent further spread”.

“It is vital that all countries are prepared to rapidly detect and timely respond to measles outbreaks, which could endanger progress towards measles elimination.”

The vaccine protects up to 96 per cent if two vaccines are taken, the first usually administered when a child is 12 months old, and the second at 18 months.

Safety drive

“Protecting our children, who are most susceptible to measles has become our top priority,” said Dr Ahmed AlKhazraji, Acting Director-General of ADPHC.

“We encourage all parents to minimise the potential risks of the disease by getting their children vaccinated.”

The Abu Dhabi centre warned that measles is highly contagious, with the virus spreading easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes.

It infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body, with symptoms including a high fever, cough, runny nose and a body rash.

Infected people are normally contagious from four days before to four days after the rash appears.

The virus can cause severe complications and even death.

According to the WHO, accelerated immunisation drives have successfully prevented an estimated 57 million deaths between 2000–2022.

It was in March when an urgent health alert was issued to passengers on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Dublin after a fellow traveller was found to have measles.

Updated: May 28, 2024, 3:35 PM