Questions and Answers about Measles & Polio Immunisation
This publication provides information for parents around measles and polio vaccinations.
What is measles?
Measles is the most dangerous of all childhood diseases. The first sign is a high fever followed by a blotchy red rash all over the body. It is also accompanied by cough, a runny nose and red eyes. Measles can cause dangerous complications, such as infection of the lungs, blindness and death.
What causes measles?
Measles is caused by a very small germ called the measles virus. It cannot by seen with the naked eye. It is spread when a child with measles coughs or sneezes. Children who suffered from measles cannot get it a second time. Most children who have been immunised against measles at the right age will not get measles.
Why is measles a dangerous disease?
Young children, who survive measles are weakened by the disease and may later die from malnutrition or other illnesses. Measles is also an important cause of mental retardation and blindness. A quarter of all deaths from measles occur before the age of one year. Measles in older children usually occur as outbreaks, when large groups of children get measles at the same time.
The risk of a measles outbreak is higher when groups of children gather together for example in creches day care centres and at schools.
Is it important to immunise children during the measles campaign?
Yes - It is very important to bring children for the extra measles injection. Children who miss the immunisation might not be fully protected against the measles virus.
I heard that the parents or guardians of children must sign a consent form before a child can receive the extra measles immunisation. Is it true?
If a child is to be immunised at a school or creche where the parent is not present when the immunisation is given, a consent form will be given to parents or guardians of children in creches, day care centres and at schools in advance. It provides and opportunity to inform parents or guardians about the extra measles injection.
In this case, if you agree to this immunisation, please complete and sign the form and send it back to the school or creches. Your child will then receive the immunisation if consent forms are signed and returned on time!
What is Polio?
Polio is a crippling disease. It is caused by a very small germ called the polio virus. Polio can lead to permanent lameness, deformity and even death. Due to routine immunisations in childhood, polio has not been seen in South Africa since 1989. However, there have been outbreaks of polio in neighbouring countries.
How will I recognize polio in a child?
Polio can be suspected when there is sudden weakness of the leg or arm or both or other parts of the body. This weakness should not have been present at birth. If the person was injured just before the weakness of the person has a history of being mentally retarded, then polio is not likely to be the cause of the weakness.
Please report any sudden weakness/paralysis in a child under 15 years (not caused by injury), to the nearest clinic, hospital or doctor for investigation. It could be polio!
Why do we have special campaigns to immunise against polio?
To give two extra polio immunisations to as many children as possible, at the same time. This prevents the polio virus from circulating among children.
People talk about the eradication of polio, what does it mean?
South Africa is taking part in an effort to eradicate polio worldwide. It means that the virus will be wiped out completely from the face of the earth. Once the polio virus does not exist any more, children will no longer need to receive polio immunisation.
Is it important to immunise children during the first and second round of the polio campaign?
Yes - It is very important to bring children for the first and the second round of the polio campaign - even if the child is up to date with the routine immunisations. To protect children against the polio virus, polio drops need to be given twice. Children who miss the second round will not be fully protected against the polio virus.
Why do we have measles and polio immunisation campaigns?
To give extra measles and polio immunisations to as many children as possible, at the same time. This prevents the measles and polio virus from circulating among children.
Why is the extra measles and polio immunisation for certain age groups only?
The children aged under five years are the group of children who most often become ill with measles and polio and spread the virus.
Is the extra measles and polio immunisation only for children who missed their routine immunisations?
No! All children aged between 0 months to under five years must receive the extra immunisations.
Where must I go to make sure that my child does not miss the extra immunisations?
Talk to your clinic nurse, community leaders and employers about the immunisations. Look out for immunisation posters and radio announcements that will indicate the way to the nearest immunisation post.
Special efforts will be made to bring immunisation posts as close to your home as possible. You can also go to your nearest clinic. Immunisation teams will visit day care centres, creches and schools.
Must I bring my child's immunisation card?
Yes, please bring it along. It is always important to take the child's and your own immunisation card with you when you go to a clinic or doctor. Cards may be checked during one of the rounds to see if a child needs routine immunisations. But even if your child has lost his/her card or has never had a card, please still bring your child to be immunised.
What will I find at the immunisation post?
You will be asked if the child is in the age group. While holding your child, two drops will be given to the child and it will be given again if your child spits it out. The extra measles injection will be given to children from nine months to under five years of age, on the same day with the polio drops.
Can a sick child get immunisations?
Yes, all children can be given the immunisations even if they have fever, cough, diarrhoea, malnutrition or any other illness.
If you would like to help eliminate measles and eradicate polio out of South Africa, here is how you can assist or become involved.
- Contact your nearest clinic and speak to them. A clinic nurse will be in charge at the immunisation post during the campaign.