We are sorry. It was just too late for us to do anything,” said doctors as they helplessly watched two more children die of measles on Friday.
While watching the doctors burn up their grey cells trying to find a cure in a ward packed with measles-stricken children running a fever, one always wonders as to why were these children not vaccinated in the first place.
While the Punjab government’s Health Department has been claiming that it has been doing its best to curb the epidemic, it remains a ground reality that the measures are certainly not effective enough as measles is still here.
The measles death toll in the province has risen to 123 in the province. As many as 14,823 children are suffering from the disease in Punjab. Anam and Saira, residents of Lahore and Muridkay respectively, are two more children who have been added to the continuously rising count which one hopes is making the government sweat.
Continuing to do what it can, the Punjab Health Department has announced that another vaccination campaign would be launched from June 24 across Punjab.
Children’s Hospital’s Dr Raza Hassan says that he has not seen a worse epidemic in his 20-year professional career. As he moves around the isolation ward at the hospital, he says that parents don’t bring their measles-affected children to the hospital in time. Some are in the final stage of life or already dead with meningitis or pneumonia, he narrates.
There is only so much the doctors can do especially when the public hospitals in the metropolis are not equipped with dealing with an epidemic of such a massive nature. Most of the hospitals in the metropolis do not have enough wards to accommodate the large number of measles-stricken children coming in. The children even have to share beds in many cases while insufficient staff to attend the patients is another issue.
With around 70 measles patients coming in every day, the Children’s Hospital has seen as many as 40 children die since the measles started marking the city red.
The burden of dealing with the epidemic weighs heavily on the doctors, who narrate the stories of families attacking medical staff at the hospital after discovering their
children had died.
It has been reported that while measles itself is rarely fatal, it can lead to life-threatening complications such as meningitis and pneumonia, particularly in developing countries where malnutrition leaves many children with low immunity.
LOW COVERAGE: Punjab Health Services Director General Dr Tanvir Ahmed has attributed large number of measles cases with low vaccination coverage. While doctors say that families need to take more responsibility for ensuring their children are vaccinated, they accept the official vaccination programmes have often been badly managed, leading to people missing out. Dr Tanvir however says that they have improved the monitoring and supervision and will ensure a wide coverage of the province. He said that they had removed nine district managers on the basis of their poor performance.
While the Health Department plans on vaccinating 11 million children in June, one can only hope that the health officials will succeed in eradicating measles from the province.