Q: Why are we having a measles outbreak?
A: Because a large proportion of our children are not vaccinated against measles. Two doses of measles vaccine are supposed to be given to all children in Pakistan, first at 9 months of age and second dose during the second year of life. Unfortunately in Pakistan, a large proportion of children have not even received a single dose of measles vaccine. If a large proportion of children in a country are unvaccinated, then measles epidemics like the current one are almost guaranteed to occur every 2-3 years.
Q: How many doses of measles vaccine should be given to children in Pakistan?
A: Two doses of measles vaccine should be given to all children in Pakistan; First at nine months of age and the second during the second year of life.
Q: During the current measles outbreak, what can we do to protect our children from measles?
A: If you have a child between 6 months and ten years of age who has not received two doses of measles vaccine, then it is recommended for your child to get the measles vaccine now as long as the previous dose of measles vaccine was not given in the last 28 days.
Q: Is there a difference in terms of vaccine efficacy or side effects between plain measles vaccine and the combination Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine?
A: No. These two vaccines are interchangeable. However, both are in short supply these days in the market due to increased demand throughout the country.
Q: Who is at highest risk of having complications including death from measles?
A: Children less than five years old, those living in over-crowded conditions, those who are malnourished and those with weak immune system are at highest risk.
Q: How do children die of measles?
A: In third world countries, up to 5-10% of children can die after developing measles, usually because of its complications like pneumonia and encephalitis. Even if it does not kill the child, it can cause malnutrition and blindness in some children. It should be noted that most children do not develop these serious complications of measles and recover completely.
Q: What do I do if my child develops fever with rash or suspected measles?
A: See your doctor. Children with measles need to be evaluated if there is any complication that requires hospitalization. However, most cases of measles can be safely managed at home. All children with measles should get two doses of Vitamin A, which your doctor will prescribe. Giving vaccine to a child who already has a fever and/or rash does not help in quick resolution of symptoms. You should also try to keep the sick child away from other children, especially those who are less than one year of age.