Indonesia Launches Vaccination Campaign To Fight Diphtheria Outbreak

Millions of children are being vaccinated against diphtheria in Indonesia this week to prevent the spread of the bacterial infection. The move comes in the wake of 38 deaths caused by the disease since January.

The $112 million campaign’s first stage will see 8 million people, aged 19 and lower, getting vaccinated. The procedure will be carried out in the capital city of Jakarta and the densely populated regions of West Java and Banten.

Diphtheria Outbreak In Indonesia

The country’s health minister, Nila Moeloek, attributed the outbreak to some people not wanting to get immunized, which leads to low antibodies and resistance in children. The minister also added that there could be various reasons why a higher number of parents do not want to get their children immunized.

Diphtheria was more or less eradicated in the nation in the 1990s. The disease had disappeared during Indonesian dictator Hajji Suharto’s 30-year rule. During this period, a family education program deployed volunteers, such as government officials’ wives, into villages where they spoke to mothers about sanitation and nutrition and also gave a reminder about national immunization days.

The program was abandoned after Suharto was dismissed in 1998, which led to a decentralized government in Indonesia. Diphtheria has reemerged in the last four years, primarily because immunization rates have decreased, indicating that people are fearful of vaccines. Rumors such as vaccinations violate Islamic law and are dangerous also do not help matters.

“I didn't even know about immunization," said Satiyah, whose adult son is being treated for diphtheria in an isolated ward after developing nausea and fever. "None of my children has been immunized since birth." She said that she is willing to take the risk of allowing her teenaged daughter to get vaccinated.

Diphtheria Cases In The United States

Diphtheria is a bacterial disease that leads to breathing difficulties, paralysis, and heart failure. It is spread from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets from sneezing or coughing.

Diphtheria is once among the major causes of illness and death among kids: 206,000 cases of the bacterial infection were recorded in the United States in 1921 alone, which led to 15,520 deaths. The disease's rates decreased quickly in the United States and other nations with the widespread use of vaccines, starting in the 1920s.

Nearly half the people who contracted the disease died from it before a treatment was developed. In the last 10 years, there were less than five cases of the disease in the USA reported to CDC.

Diphtheria, however, continues to cause illness worldwide, as can be seen in Indonesia. In 2014, 7,321 diphtheria cases were reported to the World Health Organization, and there are possibilities of that figure being higher in actuality. The best way to prevent the disease is to get vaccinated.

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