AP News reports that Madagascar is now facing its largest outbreak of measles in history. There are now more than 115,000 cases. Unlike in the U.S., resistance to vaccinations is not causing the meteoric rise of cases.
In the U.S. and elsewhere, measles cases are skyrocketing, partly because of misinformation surrounding vaccines. In New York City, officials are attempting to halt an outbreak in Brooklyn by ordering mandatory vaccinations.
In contrast, people in Madagascar want to vaccinate their families, but suffer from a lack of resources.
Only 58% of people in the main island of Madagascar have been given the measles vaccination. Because measles is highly infections, immunization rates need to reach 90 or 95 percent to prevent outbreaks from happening.
Parents in Madagascar are walking miles to sit in understaffed, full health center waiting rooms, hoping to get a vaccination for their children. Since the outbreak began in September, it has killed mostly those under the age of 15.
The outbreak is also made worse by the malnutrition that plagues almost 50 percent of Madagascar children. As Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodinou, a World Health Organization epidemiologist says, “Malnutrition is the bed of measles.”
Because health centers are so poorly organized in Madagascar, many parents aren’t aware that vaccinations are free in public health centers. Some people wrongly think that people can’t be vaccinated after a certain age.
Madagascar’s health ministry has supplied affected regions with free medication, but many fear medication will no longer be enough.
Last month, WHO began another mass vaccination campaign in Madagascar. They hoped to reach 7.2 million children from the ages of 6 months to 9 years.
“But immunization is not the only strategy for the response to this epidemic. We still need resources for care, monitoring and social mobilization,” said Sodjinou.
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