Conakry, Guinea/New York, February 10, 2014—Medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched a campaign to vaccinate close to 400,000 children in Conakry, Guinea, against measles in the next three weeks. To date, there are 1,105 suspected cases, with 68 confirmed cases in the region, causing fear of a rapid explosion in the number of infections.
“Measles is one of the most highly contagious diseases, and it can spread like wildfire,” said Corinne Benazech, MSF’s Head of Mission in Conakry. “It affects primarily children, and can involve severe medical complications so it is critical that action be taken in order to avoid the catastrophe that occurred in 2009, when ten children lost their lives.”
Working in co-operation with the Ministry of Health, MSF has deployed 32 teams throughout the Matam, Matoto and Ratoma neighbourhoods of Conakry. The Guinean government announced that its measles vaccine supply will be exhausted by February 15. It has asked for MSF support in organizing the emergency vaccination campaign in the three communities where an epidemic was declared last month.
Placed strategically close to the people who need it—in areas such as community centers, private homes and public spaces—the MSF teams expect to vaccinate 394,000 children, ages six months to ten years. A team of 400 people from MSF and the Ministry of Health will provide the vaccine at no charge.
MSF estimates that during this epidemic some fifty children infected with measles will be at risk of developing serious, and potentially fatal, complications, so it will be supporting targeted health structures, primarily by providing medical treatment to children infected with measles.
“Measles and its complications can be fatal, so it is critical that we vaccinate all children in order to protect them, now and for several decades to come,” said Gemma Dominguez, MSF Medical Coordinator in Conakry.
Measles can be avoided with a safe and effective vaccine which, when it is part of a routine vaccination program, is given to all children, starting from the age of nine months. But overall, just 37 percent of the country’s children have received both the vaccine doses that are needed to provide them with full protection. Even in Conakry, the vaccination coverage remains insufficient, because just 80 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
As part of its campaign, MSF will be able to provide no-charge diagnosis of those children that are sick, so that they can be treated. Follow-up in cases involving complications will also be provided at no charge.
“Children showing symptoms that begin with a high fever need to be seen by a physician,” explained Dr Daloka Delamou, Medical Coordinator with MSF. “This can save their lives.”
MSF has been working in Guinea for the past 25 years. In addition to its regular projects involving the provision of treatment to people living with HIV, it provides regular support to the government of Guinea in response to emergencies and epidemics.