World

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As poor and middle-income countries are fighting to stunt the spread of COVID-19, the vaccination of deadlier viruses – such as measles – are being put on the back burner

PHOTO CREDITS: WASHINGTON POST

According to the New York Times, as poor and middle-income countries are fighting to stunt the spread of COVID-19, the vaccination of other deadlier viruses are being put on the back burner. After the WHO and the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could quickly spread when children gather for shots, many countries suspended their inoculation programs (Britannica). Even in countries that tried to keep them going, cargo flights with vaccine supplies were halted by the pandemic. Due to this predicament, many virus outbreaks are taking place across the globe including diphtheria, a mutated strain of poliovirus, which has been reported in more than 30 countries, and measles, which is flaring around the globe – specifically in Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Nigeria and Uzbekistan. ~

With countries around the world lacking the resources needed for vaccinations, a large increase in the spread of measles is on its way. Of the 29 countries that have currently suspended measles campaigns because of the pandemic, 18 of them are reporting outbreaks. According to the Measles and Rubella Initiative, 178 million people are at risk of missing measles shots in 2020. Now, the risk is “an [measles] epidemic in a few months’ time that will kill more children than COVID,” said Chibuzo Okonta, the president of Doctors Without Borders in West and Central Africa. A measles epidemic would prove detrimental to most poor countries as it is tremendously more transmissible than COVID-19. “If people walk into a room where a person with measles had been two hours ago and no one has been immunized, 100 percent of those people will get infected,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Stanford University. ~

“Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, in a statement. “Disruption to immunization programs from the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles” (WHO). ~

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