Dr al-Hajri and Dr al-Romaihi at a press conference held on the sidelines of the World Immunisation Week symposium at Doha Sheraton yesterday.
By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter
The Supreme Council of Health is aiming to eradicate measles and congenital rubella syndrome from Qatar by 2015, it was announced yesterday.
There are also plans to limit the incidence rate of measles in the country to five cases per 1mn population from the old target of 10 cases per 1mn population.
A total of 160 cases of measles were reported in Qatar last year.
“Qatar is adopting the recommendations of the World Health Organisation’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office’s (WHO-EMRO) toward eliminating measles in the region by 2015 and we are also supporting this goal through the National Health Strategy 2011-2016,” SCH Health Protection and Communicable Diseases Control section manager Dr Mohamed al-Hajri told reporters at Sheraton Doha yesterday on the sidelines of a one-day symposium to highlight the World Immunisation Week being held under the theme: “Stop Measles Now”.
World Immunisation Week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against measles.
The symposium’s purpose was to update stakeholders, decision-makers and healthcare workers about the disease as well as to inform them about the production of new vaccines which are expected to be available worldwide in a few weeks.
“Although we have vaccines against measles for many years, the disease still causes about 158,000 deaths annually worldwide. Though, this figure is much lower than what we used to see in the past, we want to reduce mortality to the minimum,” Dr al-Hajri said.
He explained that measles vaccine was freely available and it was very effective with minor side effects.
“We want all healthcare workers to help identify those in need of the vaccine, those who have defaulted by conducting blood samples to know their status and also encourage parents to ensure timely dosage of the vaccine for their children at 12 and 18 months,” he said.
“These are strategies to eliminate measles in our country and the region. The Eastern Mediterranean region has decided to eliminate the disease by 2015,” he pointed out.
The official said the WHO had accepted the challenge to limit the incidence of measles to less than 10 cases per 1mn people and had now set a new target of less than five cases per 1mn population in order to achieve the goal of eliminating measles.
“Small pox was eradicated and polio is now near eradication, except in three countries namely: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria; and other countries in the world are trying their best to eradicate polio and the next step will be to eradicate measles in few years’ time,” he said.
SCH Surveillance and Outbreak section head Dr Hamad Eid al-Romaihi said that a national comprehensive strategy for eliminating measles and congenital rubella syndrome by 2015 was currently in action.
“We are aiming to sustain our measles coverage vaccination to above 95% and we are strengthening our national capacity for comparing all measles cases in Qatar,” he stated.
The official stressed that the council was also aiming to reach all residents, including Qataris and expatriates, by making vaccines available for free at all primary healthcare centres.
Visitors to Qatar may have to provide a certificate showing that they have been vaccinated against measles in their home countries before they can be issued visas.
“The Supreme Council of Health plans to work with the Medical Commission to ensure that all newcomers to Qatar, including visitors, provide a valid certificate showing that they have been vaccinated against measles in their home countries before they can be issued with visas,” SCH Surveillance and Outbreak section head Dr Hamad Eid al-Romaihi yesterday said.
The SCH is also strengthening its surveillance capacity to detect all defaulters of the measles vaccine within the country, he added.