National immunisation campaign launched - by Albertina Nakale

SWAKOPMUND ? Namibia is conducting its latest national synchronised or sub-national immunisation campaigns.

Yesterday the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, launched a new vaccine, namely the H1N1 2009, in Swakopmund.

The launch follows H1N1 cases reported in the country during 2009 with symptoms of fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, with chills, fatigue, diarrhoea and vomiting also reported in some cases.

The ministry has since recorded 421 suspected cases of H1N1, with 72 confirmed and one death. As a result, the ministry, supported by development partners, embarked on an awareness campaign related to the identification of the virus (H1N1).

?With our nurses and doctors, together with our stakeholders, we temporarily brought H1N1 to almost a time we thought we had finished it off,? he said.

Following the discovery of the H1N1 vaccine, Kamwi said, a request was put to the World Health Organisation for some supplies. The vaccines have now been received, but they are not sufficient to cover the entire country.

According to Kamwi, the ministry will focus its attention on the most vulnerable groups, which include health workers, pregnant women and children 6-11 months, health workers from prison services, the defence force as well as immigration officers from ports and border posts.

The objectives of the campaign are to cover the above-mentioned groups within three days with one dose of H1N1 vaccine.

It will also provide two doses for all children 6-11 months, two doses of oral polio drops to children 0-59 months with an interval of three weeks and then provide vitamin A supplementation to all children 6-59 months of previous immunisation status.

Since January this year, Kamwi noted that 89 suspected cases with nine confirmed cases of H1N1 were reported in the Erongo Region.

The virus is circulating in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. The minister, therefore, appealed to all residents to continue taking precautionary measures, including covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, as well as washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing and to avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth. One other appeal he made was to avoid contact with people who are infected, and to stay at home when sick for seven days after symptoms begin or until one has been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is the longer.

The 2010 national polio, vitamin A, H1N1 and sub-national measles immunisation campaign will be held from June 1 to 3 for the first round. Children from 0-59 months will be given oral polio drops nationwide. Children in the age group 6-59 months will also receive vitamin A supplementation, while those 6 months and older will receive measles vaccination in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Usakos irrespective of previous measles and polio immunisation status.

Kamwi said this is an opportunity for those who were not immunised, including the newborns, to be covered.

In addition, the second round will run from July 6 to 8. In this regard the minister reported that 0-59 months will receive another oral polio dose ? even those who, for any reason, did not receive polio drops during the first round and children 6-11 months will receive a second dose of H1N1.

He called upon all regional health directors to inform communities whom they serve accordingly.

He also appealed to parents and guardians to take their children to designated points, which will be at hospitals, clinics, churches, shops, schools and many other temporary points. The minister added that he was looking forward to more than 95 percent coverage of all the antigens in both rounds.

?I call upon all Namibians with a means to render assistance in order to make this campaign a huge success by spreading the message to all households and ensuring that all children are immunised against swine flu, oral polio, vitamin A supplementation and those that will receive measles vaccine,? he urged.