Measles mortality rate drops 90 percent in 10 years in Lebanon
BEIRUT: “Amazing progress” has been made in reducing measles mortality rates and increasing vaccination coverage in the country, the United Nations said in an open letter sent to the Ministry of Public Health on Tuesday.
According to the letter from the UN Foundation, addressed to the Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalife, Lebanon has seen over a 90 percent reduction in measles deaths since 2000, falling in line with the regional average.
Lebanon is now nearing a 93 percent immunization coverage rate and is on target to reach 95 percent nationally in the near future, ministry officials said. This is up from an estimated 55 percent vaccination rate in 1997. The rise has been driven largely by extensive media campaigns, national school drives and increased partnership between the public and private sector.
The government also now offers free vaccinations to all children, including non-Lebanese nationals, but with the high cost of the vaccine – it retails at around $100 on the open market – the private sector is encouraged to take on a large chunk of the burden especially in better-off areas.
“We’ve seen a huge jump in vaccinating rates the last ten years,” Randa Hamadeh, immunization and essential medications program manager at the Ministry of Public Health said. “We have worked closely with UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to ensure that we only use the highest quality of vaccine and by purchasing through them we are also able to obtain vaccines at the best possible price.
“We have worked with municipalities and the lowest levels of local government to make sure that the message gets through to everyone. Our approach at working on the sub-national level is helping us reach the areas most in need.”
While national coverage may be high, regional inequality remains prevalent and the government, in partnership with various UN agencies and the Lebanese Order of Physicians, is now striving to make sure that even the peripheries obtain at least a 90 percent immunization coverage rate.
“We urge Lebanon to fully recommit to measles elimination by 2010 and to a possible eradication goal by 2020,” the UN letter read.
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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)