Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted every aspect of human life. People working from home and students taking online classes, which was never thought of till this pandemic. Everything is affected by this pandemic and now the United Nations warned on Wednesday that there is an alarming decline in childhood vaccinations and the chances for a child born now to receive all recommended vaccines till he is 5 years old is lower than 20 percent.
What are childhood vaccinations? Children are born with immunity against some diseases as they get antibodies, which is a protein to fight disease made by the body, from their mothers before their birth. Babies continue to get these antibodies from their mothers through breastfeeding. But these antibodies only provide temporary immunity. Vaccination is a way to create immunity from diseases and is done by using a little amount of weakened or killed germ that causes the disease which makes the immunity system ready to act when the real infection or disease kicks in.
Around 60 of the 80 countries which were surveyed recently reported that the vaccination campaigns are disrupted due to the pandemic. These disruptions were caused due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), fewer health workers, unwillingness to leave home, and travel restrictions.
The survey also found that at least 30 measles campaigns have already been or are at the risk of being halted which may cause an outbreak of a very contagious disease. A measles outbreak was already at large before the coronavirus pandemic hit with 140,000 deaths and 10 million infected since 2018 and the majority of those numbers consisted of children.
Henriette Fore, the head of United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), said that routine childhood vaccinations are now a daunting challenge due to the coronavirus. She also added that further deterioration should be prevented in the coverage of vaccines and that one health crisis cannot be traded with another.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the suffering and death caused by children not getting routine immunizations could be much greater than coronavirus itself. Before this pandemic hit, nearly 14 million children weren’t provided vaccinations around the world and the majority of them were in Africa.
Even when vaccines are made available many parents are not taking their children to the health centers because of the virus. Moreover, it was reported by the doctors in the US that they have given 250,000 fewer doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine during March and April of 2020 as compared with last year. Which is very worrying particularly for the US which suffered its largest measles outbreak this year since 1992.
Global Immunization program being disrupted is very bad news especially for the poorest countries in the world. According to estimations around 3 million lives are saved by immunizations every year by giving children protection against serious diseases. The UNICEF program is specially made for children who would not be able to get good health care.
Although vaccines now save lives of more children than it ever did still there are millions of children who go unprotected and according to estimations, almost 1.5 million children die each year of diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations.
Coronavirus has already consumed substantial amounts of healthcare resources around the world as the countries have their focus on combatting this deadly virus. But diseases such as diphtheria, cholera, and measles are already rising, and this problem must be tackled with urgency.