Burmese authorities have postponed a national measles campaign aimed at vaccinating a planned 13 million children, the UN Children’s Fund said. The campaign had been planned over two to three weeks at the end of November, allowing families to bring their children to centers across the country to receive vaccinations funded by UNICEF and delivered by Burmese authorities. Television and radio spots were planned to advertise the campaign, which was designed to offer children who missed routine vaccination at nine months of age the chance to be immunized against measles. The program would also offer children already immunized the chance of a second injection, which guarantees lifelong protection against measles. Claire Hajaj, UNICEF Communications advisor on health, told The Irrawaddy that this program was suspended last week and a new date has still not been set. â€œObviously from the perspective of children’s health, we would want the campaign to happen as soon as possible,â€ Hajaj said.
Although the UN has received no official word as to why the program was delayed, authorities have said unofficially that there is concern that Burma is unprepared in the event of adverse reactions-a tiny percentage of children that receive measles injections go into shock, which can be fatal if adrenaline is not administered quickly. Such cases are extremely rare, experts say. The program was designed to make up for the shortfall in the number of Burmese children vaccinated against measles, one of the main causes of death for the 10.7 percent of Burmese children who currently die before their fifth birthday. In 2004, Burma immunized 78 percent of children under one year old against measles. As part of the Millennium Development Goals, the international community is aiming to reach a 90 percent level of immunization against all â€œpreventableâ€ diseases by 2010.