In a press release, UNICEF states that the virus is the ‘canary in the coalmine’ indicating that vaccination campaigns for preventable illnesses are not up to par.
As a result of disruptions caused by Covid-19, global measles cases have almost doubled this year. The UN has warned that the “canary in a coalmine” illness may foreshadow future outbreaks.
As a result of the current Coronavirus pandemic, vaccination programs for other diseases have been interrupted, Several factors indicate that millions of children may be at risk, UNICEF and WHO report
A virus causes measles, a disease that mostly affects children. In addition to blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections, other complications can occur. According to UN data, Somalia has just 46% vaccination coverage, well below the target of 95%.
The United Nations reported about 9,600 measles cases during January and February last year, compared with over 17,300 cases in January and February this year.
Measles outbreaks have been widespread and disruptive in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean in the 12 months to April, according to data released Thursday.
The infectious disease of measles is the most contagious vaccine-preventable disease, according to Christopher Gregory, the senior health adviser at Unicef’s immunisation section. Measles is what he calls the tracer, the canary in the coal mine because it reveals where there are weaknesses in immunization programs.
A rising number of yellow fever cases have been reported in West Africa, he said, which could result in a surge in yellow fever.
Those countries with the weakest healthcare systems, where the health system is already struggling, especially those that are still dealing with the effects of Covid on top of these outbreaks, should be the most concerned, he said.
Data from the United Nations show that more than 9,000 measles cases were registered in Somalia over the past 12 months, followed by Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia – all of which are in conflict.
There are also fears that the war in Ukraine could spark a resurgence in the country after it recorded Europe’s highest rate of measles between 2017 and 2019. Since the war began, Gregory says, keeping track of disease in Ukraine has been very difficult. The biggest concern is what we may have missed.
103 million children in 43 countries are still waiting for vaccinations that were postponed at the start of the pandemic. There are still 57 vaccination campaigns that were not completed at that time, according to UN agencies.
As a result of Covid, healthcare facilities face increasing pressures and medical attention is diverted away from vaccinations to preventing longstanding illnesses. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO chief, said disruptions to immunisation services will have a lasting impact.
We need to bring essential immunization back on track and launch catch-up campaigns so that everyone has access to lifesaving vaccines.
It is time to put childhood immunization on the same level of priority as completing the Covid vaccination, Gregory said.
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