Jakarta (ANTARA) - Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin stated that the government is catching up on immunization programs that lagged due to COVID-19 vaccination programs to respond to a measles outbreak in some regions.

The minister noted that the country recorded a total of 3,341 measles cases in 223 regions in 2022, a significant surge from an average of 100-200 recorded in earlier years.

"There were BIAN (National Child Immunisation Month) and BIAS (National Students Immunisation Month) programs last July and August. Despite a surge in measles cases, the cases are starting to decline in September-October," Sadikin stated after attending the national coordination meeting on the transition of COVID-19 handling and economic recovery here, Thursday.

He admitted that health officers that should refocus their work on COVID-19 vaccination programs might be a factor in the spike in measles cases.

"If you ask why, (the answer) will be the same as polio. (It is) because our focus is on COVID-19 vaccination, the immunization for other diseases is lagging," he stated.

Apart from the limited availability of health officers, the lag in administration of children's vaccination is caused by public health centres in regions that usually become the mainstay of such programs, which must refocus their resources on COVID-19 vaccination drives, the minister noted.

He expected the optimization of children's vaccination programs to reduce measles prevalence and infection cases in regions.

Meanwhile, Sadikin pointed out that Papua and Sulawesi, which became the hotspots of measles-hit areas, are regions where immunization programs must be enhanced.

"I see that (measles cases) remain rampant in Papua and Sulawesi regions. If those regions already have the MR (measles and rubella) vaccine, its administration must be pushed," he stated.

The minister also urged residents to not panic over the measles outbreak and called on parents to promptly ensure that the measles vaccine is given to their children.

"Unlike COVID-19, measles and rubella are not lethal; (and only cause) red rashes in the body. What is important now is vaccines since there are (measles) drugs and vaccines," Sadikin remarked.

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Translator: Gilang Galiartha, Nabil Ihsan
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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