The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with its partners, is set to launch a nationwide measles-rubella vaccination campaign aimed at curbing the outbreak of the disease in Sierra Leone.

The campaign is designed to reach all eligible children with the life-saving Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccine.

Dr. Desmond Maada Kangbai, head of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at the Ministry of Health, highlighted the objectives of the campaign. The goal is to vaccinate 95% of all eligible children aged 9 to 59 months, as well as at least 95% of zero-dose children, from June 28th to July 4th, 2024. This effort aims to boost the uptake of the MR vaccine and other routine vaccines among young children, thereby improving overall immunization coverage.

The campaign strategy involves urging caregivers and parents to bring their children to the nearest health facility or temporary vaccination points set up in schools, markets, mosques, churches, and other locations with a high concentration of eligible children. Social mobilization and communication efforts are also part of the strategy to educate the public and encourage participation.

Dr. Kangbai emphasized the severity of measles, describing it as a highly infectious viral disease and a leading cause of death among young children. Unvaccinated children are at the highest risk of contracting measles and suffering from its complications, including death. Globally, measles causes approximately 134,200 deaths each year, equating to about 367 deaths daily. However, vaccination has led to a 79% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2015.

In Sierra Leone, Karene District reported 143 measles cases, the highest in 2024, contributing to a total of 302 cases across 10 districts. This is a significant increase compared to the 1,111 cases reported in the first 23 weeks of 2023.

The upcoming vaccination campaign is a critical step in addressing this public health challenge and protecting the lives of Sierra Leone’s children.