The MMR campaign parade yesterday starting at Fatumaru Bay to Seafront stage in Port Vila

UNICEF’s Field Manager, Eric Durpaire, has cautioned that if a measles outbreak were to occur in Vanuatu, it would pose a big problem because only 70% of the country’s children are vaccinated against measles.

He revealed this during the launching campaign of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine rollout yesterday at the Seafront stage in Port Vila.

Mr. Durpaire, who spoke on behalf of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), said measles is a threatening illness that can be fatal for children.

He noted that in 2021, approximately 130,000 people worldwide lost their lives to measles, with the majority being children under five, many of whom had not been vaccinated.

“In 2019, 83 people in Samoa died from measles, with the majority being children under five.

“Measles is not just a theoretical disease; it has already appeared in Vanuatu.

“There have been deaths and outbreaks in the Pacific almost every year, and Vanuatu has been fortunate not to experience it in recent years,” he stated.

“In 2019, 83 people in Samoa died from measles, most of them were children under five.

“It’s not just a theoretical disease that you think, it’s something that already came in Vanuatu. Deaths and outbreak in the Pacific almost every year and Vanuatu has been lucky the last years it did not come here,” he said.

However, in the previous vaccination rollout of children in Vanuatu, a child can have their dose when they are one year old to prevent them from contracting measles in the future. Currently, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has introduced another vaccine that will have a second dose.

The MoH said that this is not only to protect against measles, but with just one dose it protects a child from three diseases, which includes measles, mumps, and rubella.

“We want to promote and campaign that currently there is a second dose which a child can received within one year and six months which will prevent contradicting three diseases — measles, mumps, and rubella,” MoH spokesperson, Dorinda Bule said.

“The big campaign now taking place in Port Vila is to make the Vanuatu community aware that a child can now move to another schedule of their vaccination program.”

The official program of the campaign started with a parade starting at Fatumaru Bay to Seafront stage where official speeches were delivered.

in her opening remarks, Director of Public Health, Jenny Stevens, said the campaign and launch of the MMR vaccine is to start rolling out the doses to the provinces and communities in all islands, where accessibility is difficult.

“We know that vaccine is the best option to protect and save the lives of our children, same as all of us, we grow up taking those vaccines.

“I am glad to see many of us who are here to witness the launch of MMR vaccine,” she said.

On behalf of the Minister of Health, his first Political Advisor (PA), George Bogiri, launched the MMA vaccine rollout.

He said the Government has a vision to protect all the children of Vanuatu against measles, mumps and rubella, and the MoH is strongly supporting efforts, together with UNICEF and WHO.

“For us to eliminate measles in the country, there is need for better vaccine coverage in order to reach 95% of the children or more to have access for the two doses.

“The MMR vaccine will start to integrate the routine immunisation program, which children will receive the first dose in 12 months and the second dose when they are 18 months old.

“The Ministry of Health is offering the second dose to children up to five years since we want to make sure that all children have better protection,” he said.

“I am appealing to all parents to make sure your child has their first dose when your child is 12 months old, and the second dose when your child reaches 18 months,” he said.