The three-day international conference hosted by WHO in coordination with the Ministry of Health of the Sultanate titled ‘30th Intercountry Meeting of National Managers of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation’ came to a successful wrap-up with experts from 22 countries sharing their knowledge and expertise with their Omani counterparts.
The high-level convergence of think-tanks in immunisation and disease prevention areas also hosted the ‘17th Intercountry Meeting on Measles/ Rubella Control and Elimination’ under the umbrella of the WHO regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Experts from across the world, representing 22 nations from eastern Mediterranean region, participated in the three-day conference and watched what positive changes the immunisation programme has brought to society. These medical experts reviewed immunisation programmes in various countries in the region.
The meeting was inaugurated by Under-Secretary for Health Affairs Dr Mohammed bin Saif al Hosni, who welcomed the participants and highlighted the key factors that led to the success of immunisation programme in Oman. He mentioned that Oman has had very few cases of measles since 1995. The recent National Measles Campaign targeting age group of 20-35 (held on September 10-16, 2017) aimed at addressing the increased number of measles cases detected through the national communicable disease surveillance in 2016 and 2017.
The wider objectives of the meeting were to assess progress towards achieving the regional immunisation targets, including routine immunisation, Measles elimination, Hepatitis B control targets within the context of the Eastern Mediterranean Vaccine Action Plan, brief the participants on the latest updates for improving immunisation programmes, and to develop countries’ plans for strengthening routine immunisation, measles/rubella and Hepatitis B control programme.
The participants are the leaders of their respective national programmes on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Immunisation and technical experts from the partner organisations and donors (WHO, CDC Atlanta, Unicef and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation — GAVI).
The Sultanate was lauded by the WHO addressing the nation as ‘a shining example’ for immunisation drives in the region with highest rate of people getting immunised in a stipulated period.
“Oman has excelled in getting the largest number of the population immunised in a short span of time and this is a remarkable achievement for a nation which has lesser epidemic in history or lesser cases of contagious diseases”, Dr Akjemal Magtymova, WHO Representative to Oman told the Observer.
Oman has been free from measles from 1977. However, there have been some cases reported in 2016 and 2017 which were effectively addressed by the Ministry of Health with the widest immunisation drive in September this year.
Highlighting the vaccines as the greatest invention of the human kind as it saves millions of lives on earth, Dr Mohammed bin Saif al Hosni said vaccines help develop immunity and it introduces a weakened element of specific disease agent that the immune system can recognise and prepare the body to protect itself by producing antibodies.
“The measles vaccines have been in use for over 50 years. It is safe, effective and inexpensive. It is given at 12 and 18 months of age to all children in Oman combined with rubella and mums vaccines”, he added.