Coronavirus health fears: Millions of children may miss measles vaccine

The United Nations warned of the dangerous shortfall on Tuesday. Measles immunisation campaigns in 24 countries have already been delayed.

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The Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) is backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN children’s fund UNICEF and others.

The group have said that children in 37 countries are potentially at risk because of the delayed procedures.

They said in a statement: “If the difficult choice to pause vaccination is made due to the spread of COVID-19, we urge leaders to intensify efforts to track unvaccinated children, so that the most vulnerable populations can be provided with measles vaccines as soon as it becomes possible to do so.

“While we know there will be many demands on health systems and frontline workers during and beyond the threat of COVID-19, delivering all immunisation services, including measles vaccines, is essential to saving lives.”

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The news comes as coronavirus cases around the world approach 2 million, with 119,699 losing their lives to the disease.

A surge in measles would pose an additional global outbreak and health threat.

According to the WHO, 2018 saw nearly 10 million infected from the disease.

It labeled the measles outbreak as “an outrage”, which killed 140,000.

Immunisation is essential in preventing the highly infectious virus.

But with COVID-19 still spreading, the WHO have recommended governments pause measles prevention campaigns.

Many parts of Africa depend on medical aid projects that normally include measles and other vaccine campaigns.

They have been stalled as countries have closed their borders and limited routine health services due to the pandemic.


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The M&RI group said it supports the need to protect communities and health workers from COVID-19, but warned that this should not mean that children permanently miss out.

They said: “Together, more than 117 million children in 37 countries, many of whom live in regions with ongoing measles outbreaks, could be impacted by the suspension of scheduled immunization activities.

“Children younger than 12 months of age are more likely to die from measles complications, and if the circulation of measles virus is not stopped, their risk of exposure to measles will increase daily.

“Urgent efforts must be taken now … to prepare to close the immunity gaps that the measles virus will exploit.”

The message concludes by thanking health care workers for their efforts against coronavirus.

They wrote: “The M&RI salutes the heroism of health and emergency workers across the globe, and we recognise the vital role they play in delivering clear, trusted information, as well as preventive and supportive care within their communities.

“We must invest in health workers and ensure they are protected from infection and empowered as part of sustainable and functioning primary health systems.

“They are the first line of defence against global epidemics.”

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