Saudi launches campaign to vaccinate primary school students

The campaign will include government, private, international and community schools all over the Kingdom.

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JEDDAH — The ministries of health and education jointly launched on Tuesday a massive MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination campaign targeting first year primary students.

The campaign will include government, private, international and community schools all over the Kingdom.

Dr. Abdullah Bin Mufreh Asiri, assistant undersecretary of Health Ministry for preventive medicine, said the campaign was part of the government department’s drive to eradicate children’s diseases including measles, mumps, infantile paralysis, diphtheria and bronchitis.

He urged all parents to make sure that their children have taken the doses on time and asked school managements to facilitate the vaccination teams.

A number of parents in Jeddah expressed fears that their children, especially in international schools, may miss the vaccination due to a lack of coordination with the vaccination teams based on previous experiences.

Dr. Nuha Dashash, in charge of the public health program in Jeddah, said the vaccination campaigns have succeeded in eliminating or reducing a number of diseases in children.

She said during the last seven years, the Kingdom has been almost free of infantile paralysis.

“The current rate of the disease is one in 250,000, one of the lowest in the world,” she said.

Dashash said if any child missed these vaccinations, they may take them later.

“Children who pass their 6th birthday can have the supplementary vaccinations that have been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO),” she said.

However, Khaled Al-Hazmi, a father of a first year primary school student, said his son did not have the vaccination at the school on time.

“When I asked the management of my son's private school for the reasons, they told me that the vaccination teams did not arrive,” he said.

Al-Hazmi said he took his son to a nearby health center to be vaccinated but was told that his son was over 6 and so could not be vaccinated.

A principal of an international school in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah district who did not want to be identified said many of his students could not be vaccinated in previous years because the medical teams of the Health Ministry did not show up.

“This has put us in an embarrassing situation with the parents, especially because we had already obtained their consent for the vaccination,” he added.

The principal claimed the uncertainty about whether the vaccination teams would arrive or not caused a number of first year students to miss having the MMR vaccination on time.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014.

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