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Rwanda to Get Rubella Vaccine

Rwanda has been so successful at fighting measles that next month it will be the first country to get donor support to move to the next stage in fighting rubella, according to the New York Times.

ImageOn March 11, it will hold a nationwide three-day vaccination campaign with a combined measles-rubella vaccine, hoping to reach nearly five million children up to age 14. It will then integrate the dual vaccine into its national health service.

Christine McNab, a spokeswoman for the Measles and Rubella Initiative was quoted as saying by the New York Times that Rwanda can do so because they’ve done such a good job on measles.  Measles and Rubella Initiative will provide the vaccine and help pay for the campaign.

Rubella, also called German measles, causes a rash that is very similar to the measles rash, making it hard for health workers to tell the difference. Rubella is generally mild, even in children, but in pregnant women, it can kill the fetus or cause serious birth defects, including blindness, deafness, mental retardation and chronic heart damage.

Ms. McNab said that Rwanda had proved that it can suppress measles and identify rubella, and it would benefit from the newer, more expensive vaccine. The dual vaccine costs twice as much — 52 cents a dose at Unicef  prices, compared with 24 cents for measles alone. The MMR vaccine that American children get, which also contains a vaccine against mumps, costs UNICEF $1.

Every year, an estimated 112,000 children, mostly in Africa, South Asia and the Pacific islands, are born with handicaps caused by their mothers’ rubella infection. Measles deaths among children have declined 71 percent since 2000.

The initiative is a partnership of many health agencies, vaccine companies, donors and others, but is led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

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