Nearly 40 million children around the world are at risk of measles disease as vaccination coverage has steadily suffered setbacks since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.
The organisation, in a news release, explains that the decline in vaccines coupled with the diminishing surveillance of the disease, and delays in immunisation activities means that “measles is an imminent threat in every region of the world.”
Nigeria has been fighting a series of outbreaks of measles that have been springing up since at least 2016. Most recently in Borno in the northeast of the country, where flooding and poor sanitation in displaced people’s camps have provided ideal conditions for disease to spread.
In 2021, an estimate of 25 million children missed their first shot of the vaccine and 14.7 million missed their second shot, worldwide. This leaves millions of children vulnerable to the disease.
“While vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and deployed in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunisation programmes were badly disrupted,” Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General explains, “and millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations against deadly diseases like measles.”
Measles Vaccinations in Nigeria
Nigeria has also suffered setbacks in vaccinations due to the global disruption in immunisation systems, and low parental knowledge on the vaccine. An estimate of 8,295 children who were infected in the first quarter of 2022 were said not to have received any dose of the vaccine.
The United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) lamented that the spike in measles cases in Nigeria presents grave hazards of the spread of the vaccine-preventable diseases. It explained that it would trigger larger outbreaks, affecting more children below the ages of five.
However, outbreaks recorded this year were also exacerbated due to the flood disaster that ravaged most parts of the country. For instance, in Borno, a state in the northeast that has overcrowded displacement camps, 74 people were confirmed dead from a three-month long epidemic of the disease.
The Borno state government revealed that the cases had reached an official outbreak level in 24 local government areas.
The WHO notes that, “measles outbreaks illustrate weaknesses in immunisation programs and other essential health services.”
It called on governments and stakeholders to broaden immunising children who have not yet received their vaccinations against the disease, and invest in robust surveillance systems to detect outbreaks quickly and respond with urgency.
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