Tuesday January 28, 2020

UN: Nearly 20 Million Children Missing Out on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

WHO reports Nigeria, India and Pakistan have the lowest vaccination rates

vaccine preventable diseases
FILE - Philippine National Red Cross and Health Department volunteers conduct house-to-house measles vaccination to children at an informal settlers community in Manila, Feb. 16, 2019. VOA

Two leading UN agencies report nearly 20 million children worldwide—more than one in 10—were not vaccinated against killer diseases, such as measles, diphtheria and tetanus in 2018.

Global life-saving vaccine coverage remains at 86 percent.  This is high, but the World Health Organization says it is not high enough.  It says 95 percent coverage is needed to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The worldwide measles outbreak is the starkest and most alarming example of what can happen when vaccine coverage across countries and communities falls below 95 percent.  Last year, nearly 350,000 measles cases were reported globally, more than double that of 2017.

vaccine preventable diseases
WHO reports Nigeria, India and Pakistan have the lowest vaccination rates. VOA

WHO’s director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Kate O’Brien warns measles outbreaks are not just persisting, but are increasing.  She agrees some of the problem is due to misinformation and false information regarding the safety of the measles vaccine.  But she says low coverage is mainly linked to sharp inequalities in both low-income and high-income countries.

“Even in high-income countries, access to vaccines, inequality and quality of care are often the greatest obstacles for parents to get vaccines for their children.  So, we want to emphasize both of these things that barriers to vaccination are not only about poor countries, they are also about the situation in high-income and middle-income countries,” she said.

Nevertheless, O’Brien notes most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries; especially in fragile or conflict-affected States.  Almost half, she said, are in just 16 countries.  Ten of them are in sub-Saharan Africa.

vaccine preventable diseases
WHO projects fewer children in Africa are likely to receive life-saving vaccines in the coming decades. VOA

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WHO reports Nigeria, India and Pakistan have the lowest vaccination rates. It finds only two regions, the Americas and Western-Pacific had lower vaccination coverage in 2018 than in 2017.   Vaccinations in every other region, it says, have gone up or have plateaued.

While Africa remains the region with the lowest vaccine coverage, WHO says it has not gone backwards.  However, due to expected population rise, WHO projects fewer children in Africa are likely to receive life-saving vaccines in the coming decades. (VOA)

Next Story

Measles haunts the unvaccinated: Number of infected reaches 114 in the U.S.

Vaccination in the US

The U.S. is the only western country to have reported high number of cases of Measles

by Smita Anand

As it seems to be the beginning of a major measles outbreak, the toll of infected children is climbing up. Since a large part of the population in the U.S. shrugged off vaccination as a significant preventive measure against fatal diseases, the likelihood of an epidemic cannot be denied. So far, most of the cases of infections are linked with the unvaccinated children and as the percentage of overall vaccination decreases further the risks would be widespread.

Vaccination in the US

Immunization against many diseases is what the world needs and vaccination is one of the vital methodologies toward achieving this. The whole idea of getting vaccinated filled the people with some dread at first during the 1950s, which stabilized later over the time with positive results and drastic fall in fatal diseases observed globally. But as it seems the fear bounced back again haunting the people in the U.S. with random negative theories connected to vaccination.

A collision between politics and medicine has stirred the anti-vaccination movement in the recent years where personal belief has triumphed over science. People argue that they should be given a choice to be vaccinated or else they would stay away from it. As fingers were pointed without any scientific and logical basis, it raised many concerns and the trust in the vaccinations faded away substantially.

With recent reports of measles breakdown in Disneyland and more than 114 affected with the contagious disease, the skepticism over vaccination seems to be starting to wane off. The people who kept themselves away from vaccination, now feel a growing compulsion to go for it.

The anti-vaccination phase drew in a lot of mistrust and created a huge shield of misinformation delivered to people through means of irrational propaganda. During this phase people believed nothing but linking of vaccine to autism and other long-term behavioral diseases, turning a small worry into a bigger concern and cause due to some maleficent reports published in a medical journal based out the UK.

Though a lot of doubts are being raised towards these time-proven preventive medicines and their manufacturers, the question is how could be the other means to prevent diseases then? The answer has many varied theories and explanations but so far the vaccines seem to be the only effective measure.

The only country that now has measles outbreak in the Western Hemisphere is the U.S.; this is not a blunt statement but a truth as quoted by the National Geographic News.

The current public health crisis that the U.S. is going through is the result of its own ignorance and making vaccines look like a medication of mutation. The result: sick people with whooping cough and fever, and tensed family and health department. The dreaded, contagious Measles is back again to haunt.

Why wait for an outbreak and search for a remedy when it is already there to prevent it beforehand. The dilemma about vaccines is to overturn the previous negative ideologies. Waiting for epidemics like Measles and Whooping Cough to return and remind the people of the importance of vaccines would be a damaging and life-threatening risk.

Last, but not the least, the debates about vaccinations are not questions raised against science but delivered information. The pharmaceutical companies need to be transparent; the government needs to be transparent, and they both need to encourage the efforts of science to safeguard the people against deadly diseases sooner than later.

Image Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers