July launch for measles battle

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 June, 1997, 12:00am

Nearly 1.2 million people who face the risk of contracting measles will be vaccinated this summer in a campaign to avoid a predicted epidemic next year.

But as dates were announced, the Department of Health admitted it may have to change vaccination periods for older students as they coincide with secondary school holidays.

People aged from one to 19, those who have never been vaccinated and those who have received only one dose are being targeted in separate campaigns from July 28 to November 15.

The high-risk group aged between 12 and 19 is being asked to attend one of 111 clinics throughout the territory between July and September. The school summer holidays run from July 14 to September 1.

Assistant Director of Health Dr Paul Saw Thian-aun yesterday acknowledged the campaign could flop as a result and the department would consider changing the vaccination period if a low turnout became evident.

But he said the Advisory Committee on Immunisation, which he chaired, had carefully considered the dates for premium effectiveness in fighting the disease.

'The reason why we have to do it now is that we must do it before winter, when you get a higher incidence of respiratory disease, and you may get some early cases before the peak period of spring and early summer,' he said.

'We also wanted to spread out the group. The time-frame covers almost six weeks, so we should be able to catch all those in the older age group. But we will change the dates if attendance is low.' More than 2,000 people have been hit by measles this year. On May 29, a 16-year-old boy died from inflammation of the brain brought on by the disease.

A hotline with information on measles and arrangements for vaccination opens today, on 2833 0111.