Greater outreach needed in fight against measles

A young boy suffering from measles being held by his grandmother at a state-run hospital in Hanoi.
PHOTO: Greater outreach needed in fight against measles

The rise in the number of measles cases, particularly among young children, is a matter of concern ("Spike in measles cases in Singapore"; last Saturday).

The reasons given for not getting vaccinated against the disease reflect a misconception over the nature of the infection and the vaccination.

It is alarming that parents believe the risk of contracting measles is low since the majority have already been vaccinated. If everyone has this mindset, then the risk could potentially be amplified.

Even with a high take-up rate for vaccination, children who are not vaccinated can get infected easily, given their susceptibility to the disease and their being in close proximity with many of their peers in pre-school.

Measures such as making the jabs free for children and imposing financial penalties for non-compliance are laudable but should be complemented with greater outreach efforts.

Perhaps the Health Promotion Board could come up with a pamphlet summarising the facts pertaining to the infection and why vaccination is necessary. This would help to correct misconceptions, such as the belief that the risk of contracting measles is low.

These pamphlets could be distributed by post to parents with pre-school children.

Kindergartens and nurseries should also take active measures to ensure that their pupils have gone for vaccination.

Perhaps community clubs could partner polyclinics to hold annual vaccination exercises, so that citizens living too far from the polyclinics can get their children vaccinated at community clubs near their homes.

Contracting measles can be quite a painful experience for children. It is also costly for parents, who will also need to take leave from work to take care of their sick children.

More crucially, a high take-up rate is necessary to protect infants who are not old enough to receive the jab.

Letter by Yeo Tong Wei

This article was published on May 14 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.