With help from the United Nations agencies for children and public health, Kazakhstan will begin a campaign to inoculate nearly 1.5 million young people over the next two weeks against measles and rubella in an effort to end an outbreak that began last September.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which are two of the sponsors, more than 9,000 cases of measles have been reported among high-risk groups in the new outbreak while 15,104 cases of rubella disease were reported last year.
"We expect that the campaign will effectively stop the outbreak of measles disease in Kazakhstan," said UNICEF's Alexandre Zouev. "It will be a step towards the regional goal of elimination of measles by 2007. We are also supporting the Government in sustaining routine measles coverage rate and in catch-up campaigns to reach children under the age of five who have not yet been immunized."
Mr. Zouev also welcomed the Government's decision to introduce rubella vaccination into the routine immunization calendar.
Measles weakens immunity and leaves children susceptible to fatal complications from diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition, as well as risk to blindness, deafness or brain damage. Rubella causes a mild rash in childhood, but can lead to serious and sometimes fatal complications in the unborn child if the mother-to-be gets the infection early in her pregnancy.