AFRICA HEALTH News

The World Risks Losing 20 Million Children to Diptheria, Tetanus, and Measles

Vaccines play an essential role in the lives of children by helping them reduce the chances of contracting preventable diseases. Young children need special care in the early years of their lives. One of the most crucial and life-changing things they need is vaccinations. However, a report by UNICEF children fund and the World Health Organization shows that vaccinations coverage has gone down in recent years by continuing taking a downward trend.

Usually, this mostly happens in impoverished and war-torn countries, where it is challenging to immunize all the children. One in ten children is not vaccinated against communicable diseases. Consequently, they are vulnerable to in the first moments of their lives. This is very worrying because it is approximately 20 million children who are at risk of early death because of contracting measles, tetanus, whooping cough and diphtheria. Missing vaccines impedes the healthy growth of children, and it should be avoided at all costs.

“Vaccines are one of our most important tools in preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe,” the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.

“It’s often those who are most at risk – the poorest, the most marginalized, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes- who are persistently missed,” he said. “Far too many are left behind.”

According to a report by WHO/UNICEF, since 2010, vaccination coverage for the three doses of diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus and one dose of measles have stagnated at 86%. This is detrimental to immunity of the children because at least 95% is needed to protect those who are not vaccinated and to maintain what health experts call “herd immunity”. In most cases, people are not correctly sensitized on the role the vaccines play in their children’s’ lives, so they end up ignoring them. Another factor is cultural and religious beliefs that hinder some communities from taking their children for immunizations. Health experts should create awareness on the role the vaccines play for people to access vaccines by all means.

For instance, in 2018, measles cases doubled globally to about 350,000. This was as a result of poor immunization coverage in the current years. When vaccines are not properly administered, the result is outbreaks. For instance, it could be that missing the vaccines resulted in outbreaks; thus, the insane figures of the measles contraction.

“Measles is a real-time indicator of where we have more work to do to fight preventable diseases,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director. “An outbreak points out to communities that are missing out on vaccines…and we have to exhaust every effort to immunize every child.”

More than half of the unvaccinated children in the world are from 16 countries: Afghanistan, Central Africa Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Such children are at the risk of contracting severe health consequences. Therefore, more resources are needed to ensure they get maximum care in case they fall ill. Strategies to ensure that the children in the war-torn and marginalized countries access the vaccines should be put in place.

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