From March 12 to 15, Rwanda will become the first country in Africa to roll out the measles and rubella (MR) vaccine nationwide. The combined vaccine will be administered to about five million children between the ages of 9 months and 14 years.
Rwanda has been vaccinating all infants with one dose of measles vaccine for many years, and experts have estimated that measles deaths in Rwanda declined from 670 in 2000 to 3 in 2010. To sustain these gains and prevent future outbreaks, the Ministry of Health decided to provide a second dose of the vaccine to children nationwide.
The vaccination program is made possible due to the partnership between the government and key partners that include GAVI Alliance, WHO, UNICEF and USAID. The MR vaccine protects against sickness from both measles and rubella viruses.
Measles is easily spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing and can cause a fever, cough, sore throat and rash while in rare cases the disease causes breathing problems and swelling in the brain that may lead to death.
The new vaccine protects against rubella infection, which causes fever, headache and rash in adults but generally few symptoms in children. Rubella is usually spread through close contact with another person. A pregnant mother is at risk of delivering a baby with malformations and mental problems if she gets infected with the rubella virus.