Islamabad - Ministry of National Health Services will launch countrywide anti-measles campaign this year under the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI), targeting nearly 30million children under the age of five, said an official on Monday.

The statement issued by the ministry said that Independent Review Committee (IRC) of the global vaccine alliance (GAVI) has approved the application submitted by NHS for support of the national level anti-measles campaign.  The statement added that the campaign will be launched in October this year and ministry has initiated the arrangements for such a huge campaign in the country to curb the disease.

An official said that provinces have also been notified for preparations of the campaign to further reduce and contain the outbreak of the disease in the country. Measles cases in Pakistan have shown a decline since the introduction of EPI program in Pakistan with two doses of measles containing vaccine being administered at 9 months and 15 months of age. The reported measles coverage has improved from 86% in 2015 to 90% in 2017.

Statement said that World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017 conducted measles risk assessment of all districts using the WHO – CDC tool and following the assessment, approximately 1 million children in Balochistan, 2 million children in KP, and over 1.4 million children in Punjab were vaccinated through outbreak response.

Looking into the higher rate of disease burden in Sindh, particularly in Karachi, the mop-up campaign was conducted during the last quarter of 2017 vaccinating approximately 1.3 million children.

During the recent years, various steps have been taken by the government to strengthen disease surveillance in the country. Government has allocated resources for strengthening VPD surveillance in terms of hiring technical human resource, capacity building of the newly recruited staff along with refresher trainings of existing work force, statement added.

Earlier, this month, three infants died in Nawabshah during Mother and Child week due to wrong administration of anti-measles vaccine.

Government of Sindh health department formed an investigation committee to determine the cause of death as it was suspected that the deaths occurred due to reaction of the vaccine. The provincial government stated that the vaccine administered to children was being stored on international standards and had not been expired.

The deaths therefore occurred because of human error.  The Sindh government said that one lady health worker was administering the vaccine without following the injection safety techniques.

This resulted in adverse reaction causing death of three children.

Provincial government admitted that the required protocol was not followed properly during the campaign and claimed the lives of the children.

In Sindh, at least 1.3million children received the measles vaccine in last 12 months, while the number of cases declined to 72 from 3000.