Measles outbreak in Zimbabwe kills almost 700 children
Zimbabwe's Cabinet has now launched a mass vaccination campaign
A measles outbreak in Zimbabwe has now killed nearly 700 children in a rapidly accelerating flare-up of the deadly disease.
health officials have expressed alarm at the speed of the spread and high fatality rate of the outbreak, which has seen the death toll jump by dozens each day.
By September 4, measles deaths had reached 698, according to Zimbabwe’s health ministry, up from less than a quarter of that a fortnight earlier. Officials reported that 37 children died on September 1 alone.
Dr Johannes Marisa, the president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association, told
that the government may need to force children to be vaccinated.
He said: “Because of the resistance, education may not be enough, so the government should also consider using coercive measures to ensure that no one is allowed to refuse vaccination for their children.”
He urged the government to “consider enacting legislation that makes vaccination against killer diseases such as measles mandatory”.
Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases, with a reproduction (R) rate as high as 18 – compared to an R rate of between 2 and 3 for the original strain of COVID-19.
The virus causes fever, coughing, and a rash, and in some cases, it can cause potentially fatal complications. These include blindness, brain swelling, severe diarrhoea and dehydration, ear infections, and even severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
Zimbabwe’s Cabinet has invoked a law used to respond to disasters to deal with the outbreak, and has launched a mass vaccination campaign, which aims to target two million children who are under five years old.