Rubella Vaccine Campaign Ready to Launch in Rwanda

Mar 1, 2013 | Lauren Edmundson | Research & Policy

Donors plan to launch a measles and rubella vaccine campaign in Rwanda after previous successes with the measles vaccine. This will be the first instance of a nationwide rubella vaccine campaign funded by donor support.

The vaccination campaign has been planned for three days in mid-March. The goal of this campaign is to vaccinate five million children across Rwanda with the combination measles-rubella vaccine. The campaign is a collaborative effort by the Measles and Rubella Initiative, Rwandan government and the GAVI Alliance, who provided the financial support. At the end of the campaign, the vaccine will be incorporated into routine health services in the country.

Rubella, an illness caused by a virus, is typically considered a mild disease, with symptoms including rash, fever and nausea. The disease can be transmitted through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The virus can also be passed from a mother to fetus, in which case the disease is much more dangerous. A fetus infected with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) may suffer from serious complications including heart problems, deafness, blindness and in the worst cases, death. Mothers infected with rubella will transmit the disease to their children in ninety percent of cases, and it is estimated that about 110,000 children are born with CRS each year.

Since the initial offering of the measles-only vaccine in Rwanda in 2007, over ninety percent of children have been vaccinated twice against measles and hardly any cases of measles have been identified. Christine McNab, a spokesperson for the Measles and Rubella Initiative, expressed confidence in Rwanda’s health systems and infrastructure “because they’ve done such a good job on measles.”

The measles-rubella vaccine, at 52 cents, is twice as expensive as the measles-only vaccine. However the GAVI Alliance believes this is a worthwhile investment in a country with a history of successful, groundbreaking healthcare delivery. In 2010, Rwanda was the first African country to offer the HPV vaccine.

The GAVI Alliance hopes to introduce this same vaccine in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Senegal and Vietnam by the end of 2013. By 2020, the organization plans to have immunized 700 million children in 49 countries. 

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