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Romania Steps Up Immunization Campaigns

December 30, 2005

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Romanian health authorities have stepped up immunization campaigns to contain a measles epidemic that has infected more than 4,300 children, killing 10 of them, the health ministry said Thursday.

The first cases of measles appeared in January, but the disease spread rapidly at the end of November. Authorities have vaccinated more than 306,000 children in the last month and have lowered the immunization age from a year old to seven months.

Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu has said the epidemic occurred because many children were missed by immunization campaigns in 2003-2005. He has asked prosecutors to review whether medical officials had done their jobs properly.

In recent days, an outbreak of chickenpox was also confirmed by health authorities, Health Ministry spokeswoman Oana Grigore said, adding that about six cases per day were being reported, mostly in Bucharest.

``In January we’ll decide whether to make immunization for chickenpox mandatory, because right now the vaccination is just on a voluntary basis,″ said Adrian Streinu-Cercel, head of the Matei Bals Hospital in Bucharest.

He said 1.5 million children under age 5 are vulnerable to chickenpox.

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