An MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) Supplementary Immunization Activity (SIA) commenced today (Jan.06) at all immunization clinic centres in 9 high-risk health districts.

The vaccination program is taking place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Colombo (including the CMC area), Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Kandy, Jaffna, Kurunegala and Kalmunai health districts.

According to the Epidemiology Unit, children born between April 07, 2023, and July 05, 2023, are eligible to receive the additional vaccination dose.

The second phase will be initiated on January 20 and extended to other age groups across the country. 

The health authorities decided to administer an additional vaccination dose against measles to infants aged between 6 – 9 months as cases began to surge over the past year.

The MMR vaccination should be considered an additional vaccination dose, the Epidemiology Unit explained, noting that routine MMR vaccination should be given to all children who have received SIA-MMR vaccination, on completion of 9 months and 3 years of age.

Concerns were raised after Sri Lanka recorded over 700 cases of measles over the course of 2023, despite being declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 as the fourth country in the Southeast Asian region to eliminate the acute viral respiratory illness.

Health officials have urged parents to ensure their children receive the necessary immunization.

Meanwhile, the UNICEF, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), decided to support the Health Ministry in implementing the SIA in Sri Lanka aimed at controlling the ongoing measles outbreak.

The MMR vaccine was introduced into Sri Lanka’s immunization program in 1984. In 2001, a second dose of the vaccine was introduced to improve population level immunity and in 2019, the WHO declared Sri Lanka as a country free of Measles.

However, a significant drop in global immunization coverage from 2020 to 2022 impacted many countries in the region, which has led to a rise in measles cases once again, including in Sri Lanka.