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- The delivery of measles vaccine in endemic areas must contend with a biological catch-22. From birth to about nine months of age, most infants have maternal antibodies that protect them from measles infection. But these antibodies also prevent the measles vaccine from conferring lifelong immunity.
Those children whose maternal immunity wears off early are at risk of infection at an age when measles infection can be most severe. Thus, health systems in endemic regions, like the DRC, employ a first dose at a relatively early age (nine months) to immunise these vulnerable children. Later they provide a second dose to catch those for whom the first dose didn’t provide protection.
- Matthew Ferrari. "Outbreaks of measles: compounding challenges in the DRC". The Conversation. (2019-10-7). Retrieved 2019-11-22.
- It is a race against time to deliver the vaccine before it overheats in the equatorial sun.
Nine hours later, and shortly after sundown, the team arrives with their precious cargo in Boso Manzi, the nearest town to Macau.
The fleet of motorcycle drivers wearily unload cool-boxes into MSF’s temporary warehouse – a white tent lined with refrigerators powered by a series of generators.
After checking the 2,900 vials are intact, the temperate log for each cool-box is plugged into a computer. Seconds later, a graph appears, showing every change in temperature since leaving the manufacturer’s warehouse in India.
This is just the first phase of a herculean effort.
Over the next 10 days, the vials will be loaded back onto the motorbikes and transported to villages such as Macau, and deeper into the forest, to reach children missed in previous vaccination efforts.
After overcoming logistical challenges in reaching remote communities in the DRC, the cost per vaccine increases five-fold, according to Sodjinou.
- Murray, Lisa. "Measles: In Ebola's shadow, a quiet killer is on a rampage in DRC”. Al Jazeera. (7 April 2020). Archived from the original on 10 May 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
- Two doses of the measles vaccine are recommended and roughly 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization. In DRC, measles immunization coverage was only 57 per cent in 2018.
- "As measles deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo top 4,000, UNICEF rushes medical kits to health centers and vaccinates thousands more children". UNICEF. 2019-10-09. Retrieved 2019-11-22.