Lesotho health ministry split over vaccine

March 28, 2017
| Report Focus News

Opinions are divided on the continuance of the ill-fated Lesotho national Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination campaign that landed hundreds of children in hospital with symptoms of full-blown measles and signs of extreme side effects.

The national crisis that saw parents castigating the country’s health ministry and accusing its head, Dr ‘Molotsi Monyamane,  of gross negligence and unprofessional conduct has so far claimed two lives, according to reports.

Beginning February 2017, the health ministry rolled out the MMR vaccination campaign targeting children from 0 to 14 years. In the midst of the campaign, scores of vaccinated children were reported to show adverse effects ranging from full-blown symptoms of measles, rash, high temperature, loss of appetite to a general feeling of being unwell.

To-date, two deaths of children linked to the vaccine have been reported in the northern parts of the country, although post-mortem reports conclusively outlining the cause of death are yet to be done; minister Monyamane has, however, warned against arriving at particular conclusions before post-mortem investigations were finalised.

Dr Monyamane revealed through the local media that despite the temporary cessation of activities as a result of a public outcry, the vaccination campaign would go ahead as planned since there were life-threatening risks for children who were not vaccinated.

“Measles and rubella are deadly infections that if not given medical attention, children could have pneumonia, brain damage and can even die as a result,” he said in justification of this decision.

However, the Director General in the same ministry, Dr ‘Nyane Letsie, has called for a halt to the campaign while thorough investigations were being made.

“It is not wise to go ahead with the immunisation without getting to the bottom of this crisis”, she said, adding that they had called an emergency Inter-Council Coordinating Committee on Immunisation to map a way forward on the matter.

In a press briefing held at the height of the public outcry last week, minister Monyamane highlighted the importance of having a team of experts around him to advise him accordingly during critical times such as the current dilemma.

The MMR vaccine used in Lesotho, according to ministry, was procured from World Health Organisation accredited manufactures and obtained by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on behalf of the Lesotho government.

“The vaccine had already been used in Botswana and Swaziland before coming to Lesotho,” Dr Monyamane said.