Dr. Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness, spoke this morning at the start of a four-day workshop on measles surveillance in Mauritius.
He said that the government aims to combine high-quality management and public health promotion with a strong childhood immunization program to prevent serious public health emergencies from all diseases preventable by vaccines, including measles.
Govt Of Mauritius To Pursue High-Quality Measles Surveillance In Prevention Of Any Outbreak
The workshop was held at Caudan Arts Centre, Port Louis. Dr. Jagutpal recalled that measles is a severe and highly contagious disease.
He added that before the introduction of the measles vaccine and widespread vaccination in 1963, significant epidemics occurred every 2-3 years, with measles killing an estimated 2.6 million people each year.
He stated that during 2000-2018, measles vaccination prevented deaths estimated to be 23.2 million. This made the measles vaccine among the best buys in public health.
He added that the most severe complications include:
- Ear infections.
- Encephalitis (a condition that causes brain swelling).
- Severe diarrhea and dehydration.
- Severe respiratory infections like pneumonia.
Dr. Jagutpal dwelt on the necessity of getting vaccinated against measles, seeing that young children are highly prone to contracting measles and its complications, including death.
While recalling that the measles vaccination was introduced in 1982 in Mauritius, he highlighted that the United Nations and Children's FundWorld Health Organization (WHO) had noted an increase in measles cases in 2022.
He warned that both organizations have indicated that the increasing number of measles cases worldwide is a heightened risk for spreading vaccine-preventable diseases and could trigger more significant outbreaks. Particularly with measles affecting millions of children in the year 2022.
Dr. Jagutpal lamented, "Increasing inequalities in access to vaccines, pandemic-related disruptions, and the diversion of resources from routine immunization since the COVID-19 pandemic has left too many children without protection against vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles."
He reassured that since Mauritius, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has ensured no disruption in health services delivery, including immunization services.
He expressed satisfaction that Mauritius has always targeted and successfully achieved the vaccination of measles coverage rates above 90%, which is essential in maintaining herd immunity.
He, however, insisted that the 10% gap needs to be identified. Furthermore, he added that vaccination delivery services need to be improved. He said Mauritius recorded its last measles outbreak in 2018.
The Minister of Health, however, observed that with international travel and Mauritius being a premier tourist destination, there is a risk of measles resurfacing in the country.
Hence, he pointed out that there is a need for a robust, high-quality surveillance system and an immediate requirement to review and also strengthen the existing measles surveillance system.