HCMC faces high risk of measles outbreaks overlapping existing diseases

The Department of Health of Ho Chi Minh City, on September 14, said that amid the interrupted supply of two vaccines in the expanded program on immunization (EPI), namely the single measles vaccine and the DPT vaccine, there is a high risk of a measles outbreak overlapping existing diseases, including dengue fever and Covid-19.
HCMC faces high risk of measles outbreaks overlapping existing diseases ảnh 1 Children with measles are being treated at Children's Hospital No.2. (Photo: SGGP)

According to Assoc. Prof. - Dr. Tang Chi Thuong, Director of the Department of Health of HCMC, the city's monthly demand for measles and DPT vaccines is more than 8,000 doses for each type. As the supply of the two vaccines in the EPI, single measles and DPT, had shown signs of interruption, the Department of Health sent official dispatches in June, August, and September 2022 to the Ministry of Health, asking the ministry to direct the National Immunization Program to promptly distribute enough vaccines for the city. However, up to now, there has been no vaccine supply for the city.

"With the supply disruption of measles vaccine, the risk of a recurrent outbreak of measles is very high this year," said Assoc. Prof. - Dr. Tang Chi Thuong.

According to the requirements of the National Immunization Program, measles vaccine coverage must be at least 95 percent among children under one year of age to control the measles epidemic. In fact, measles outbreaks occur once every four years. The most recent measles outbreaks happened in 2013-2014 and 2018-2019. More worryingly, after two years of being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the rate of measles vaccination in HCMC is extremely low. Now, the vaccine source has been interrupted, so the risk of a measles outbreak is very high.

By August 2022, the rate of the booster shot of measles vaccine for children born in 2022 was only 75.3 percent, 19.7 percent lower than the target of 95 percent, while that of children born in 2019 reached 83.6 percent, 11.4 percent lower than the target.

In addition, in the past time, the rate of the first dose of measles vaccine for children born in 2021 has not been achieved yet due to the interrupted supply of measles vaccine, reaching only 79.9 percent, 15.1 percent lower than the target.

Thus, besides the usual four-year cycle, in the past three years from 2019 to 2021, the rate of children vaccinated against measles had not been achieved due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and recently, the interruption of vaccine supplies in the EPI. Therefore, the risk of a measles outbreak is many times greater than in previous outbreaks.

Faced with this situation, the Department of Health directs ward and commune-level medical centers to make a list of children who are old enough but have not been vaccinated yet to inject them as soon as they receive vaccines from the program. If parents are worried and want their children to be vaccinated on schedule, they can take them to a service vaccination facility for injections.

For children aged 12 months and older who have not been vaccinated against measles, the medical centers may prescribe the MR vaccine in the EPI or advise on the MMR vaccine in the group of service vaccine.

“Everybody needs to actively take common preventive measures for infectious diseases, such as washing hands frequently, especially before coming into contact with children, actively wearing a mask when having respiratory symptoms, cleaning contact surfaces, and keeping the house well ventilated,” the Department of Health recommended.