Government has invoked the Civil Protection Unit Act to deal with the measles outbreak that has so far claimed 157 lives from complications after spreading across the country, Cabinet has resolved.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care is instituting a mass vaccination campaign targeting the six months to 15 years’ age group regardless of their vaccination status.
Most cases reported among children within the targeted age group for vaccination are from religious sects who are not vaccinated against measles due to religious beliefs.
Routine measles vaccination to reach above 95 percent coverage for both first and second doses in children has also been increased.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said Cabinet received a brief on the measles outbreak across all provinces of Zimbabwe from Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Constantino Chiwenga.
“The nation is being informed that following a report of the first case of measles in Mutasa District, Manicaland Province on 10th August 2022, the disease has now spread to other Provinces.
“As of 15th August 2022, the cumulative figures from across the country had risen to 2 056 cases, and 157 deaths,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“It has been noted that most cases had not received vaccination to protect against measles.
“Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Health to engage traditional leaders and faith leaders in the vaccination programme,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Manicaland has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths with 1270 cases and 122 deaths, Harare 121 cases and 0 deaths, Midlands 83 cases and 16 deaths, Masvingo 116 cases and three deaths, Mashonaland East 115 cases and 16 deaths.
Mashonaland Central 87 cases and 0 deaths, Mashonaland West 130 cases and 0 deaths Matabeleland North 85 and 0 deaths, Matabeleland South 23 cases and 0 deaths and Bulawayo 12 cases and 0 deaths.
“That the National Supplementary Vaccination Programme be up-scaled before the schools’ open targeting the six to 15-year age group; and resources be drawn from the National Disaster Fund in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, towards fighting the outbreak,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Meanwhile, in an earlier statement last week Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Air Commodore Dr Jasper Chimedza said the mingling of people through church gatherings across provinces aided the spread.
“These gatherings which were attended by people from different provinces of the country with unknown vaccination status led to the spread of measles to previously unaffected areas.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care would like to point out that most cases reported are among children aged six months to 15 years from religious sects who are not vaccinated against measles due to religious beliefs,” said Dr Chimedza.
He said measles is a highly contagious respiratory tract viral infection commonly found in children and is spread through sneezing, coughing and by touching or contact with secretions of an affected individual.
Symptoms start with a cough, fever, and then skin rash, the high fever usually begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus and lasts four to seven days.
Dr Chimedza said other symptoms include a runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage, after several days, a rash erupts on the face and spreads to the whole body.
“The public is advised that the risk of developing a severe form of measles or dying from complications of measles is very high among unvaccinated children under 15 years.
“Additionally, we are instituting a mass vaccination campaign targeting the six months to 15 years’ age groups regardless of their vaccination status,” said Dr Chimedza.