RIYADH: A national program to immunize three million students against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) began throughout the Kingdom on Sunday.
Deputy Assistant Minister of Health for Preventive Medicine Dr. Abdullah Al-Asiri said the program is being carried out by the ministry in coordination with the Ministry of Education to cover all schools and universities in the Kingdom.
Under the program, Health Ministry officials will visit schools to immunize students.
The MMR vaccines will be given to those aged one to 18 years. The campaign will continue for five weeks. The vaccine will be given in two phases.
Students from government, private and community schools at primary, middle and secondary levels will be covered under this program.
The second phase will cover preschool children from the first year to five years, in addition to students of middle schools, and secondary schools and kindergartens.
Infants below 12 months do not need the vaccine as they derive immunity against measles from birth.
According to reports from the ministry, incidence of measles, rubella and mumps were minimal in the Kingdom. “Only 300 cases are reported annually. This can be fully eradicated with an organized campaign against the diseases,” he said.
Measles is an acute viral contagious disease accompanied with fever, conjunctivitis, cough and red skin ulcers starting on the face and covering all parts of the body from the third to seventh day of infection.
There is no specific antiviral therapy for measles and the basic treatment is necessary supportive therapy such as hydration and antipyretics.
Mumps can cause fever, headaches and swelling of the cheeks and jaw. The swelling is caused by an infection of the salivary glands. Mumps can cause meningitis, an infection of the fluid and lining covering the brain and spinal cord.
Rubella is very dangerous in pregnant women. If a woman gets rubella in the early part of a pregnancy, it is very likely that her baby will die or be severely handicapped. The most common handicaps are blindness, deafness, mental retardation and heart defects.
According to medical opinion, most children will have no side effects following MMR vaccine. It can cause a rash or fever in some children five to 12 days after the vaccination is given. This may last for a few days.