Measles to remain problem as five-year vaccine plan falters

Kyodo News

The government may not achieve its target of eliminating measles outbreaks by 2012, as fewer youths than necessary have been vaccinated under a five-year program, according to a health ministry survey released Friday.

About 11,000 people contracted measles in Japan in 2008, and epidemiologists say maximum efforts are necessary to raise vaccination rates to the targeted levels.

 

The government therefore plans to offer supplementary measles vaccinations for all 13-year-olds and 18-year-olds under the five-year program that began in fiscal 2008. This follows an epidemic in 2007 among children and young adults who were apparently given only one shot.

Only 66.1 percent of those aged 13 and 58.1 percent of those aged 18 had been vaccinated as of the end of December. That falls far short of the minimum 95 percent considered necessary to prevent an outbreak of the infectious disease.

Supplementary vaccination rates were particularly low in urban areas, including Tokyo and Osaka. Among those aged 18, Tokyo had the lowest rate, at 40.6 percent, while the rate for those aged 13 in Osaka was the lowest, at 55.2 percent.

The subsidized vaccination program is intended to stop the spread of measles in the nation by 2012 by targeting junior high school and high school students, who have only received one regular measles shot.

The program was introduced after a large number of high schools and colleges were forced to temporarily close in 2007 due to the spread of the disease.

Since 2006, children have been given two rounds of shots — the first to those aged 1 and the second during preschool.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry presented the latest findings to the government’s council in charge of implementing measures to combat measles.

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