Missing out on vaccines not a healthy trend - GulfToday

Missing out on vaccines not a healthy trend

Vaccine

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Almost 20 million children missed out on potentially life-saving vaccinations last year, according to the United Nations, and the surging measles cases certainly highlight dangerous gaps in efforts to shield kids from preventable illnesses.

Various factors like conflict, inequality and complacency have led to a stagnation of global vaccination rates and if this trend is not reversed rapidly, the repercussions could be serious.

The World Health Organization and the UNICEF children’s agency have made it clear in their annual report that last year, 19.4 million children were not fully vaccinated — up from 18.7 million in 2017 and about 18.5 million the year before.

Globally, since 2010, vaccination coverage with three doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) and one dose of the measles vaccine has stalled at around 86 per cent.

While high, this is not sufficient. 95 per cent coverage is needed — globally, across countries, and communities — to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccines are one of our most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe, as Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, points out.

Unfortunately, it’s often those who are most at risk — the poorest, the most marginalised, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes — who are persistently missed.

Most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries, and are disproportionately in fragile or conflict-affected states.

Almost half are in just 16 countries - Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

A serious note should be taken of the fact that if these children do get sick, they are at risk of the severest health consequences, and least likely to access lifesaving treatment and care.

Increasing number of measles cases is another worrisome trend. In 2018, almost 350,000 measles cases were reported globally, more than doubling from 2017.

The UAE, on its part, deserves praise for taking the right steps on this subject.

The UAE has developed a mandatory immunisation schedule for children to cover them from birth till Grade 11.

Dr Hussein Abdel-Rahman Al-Rand, Assistant Under-Secretary of Health Centres and Clinics Sector, mentioned recently how the National Immunisation Programme plays a significant role in boosting the immunity of the community, particularly school students, against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Dr Al Rand’s remarks came during a workshop organised recently by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, MoHAP, in coordination with the Ministry of Education as part of 2019 World Immunisation Week.

School principals at the workshop were asked to strengthen the coordination between members of the staff and health workers to increase vaccines coverage rate as part of the National Immunisation Programme and the Programme of Health Vaccinations at Schools.

He reassured principals that all vaccines are currently in-use and undergo extensive quality check examinations and studies to ensure their safety.

MoHAP is providing vaccines at 69 healthcare centres in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, in addition to nine preventive medicine centres.

The UAE’s benevolence extends beyond borders. Over 407 million drops of polio vaccine were delivered to more than 71 million Pakistani children as part of the Emirates Polio Campaign implemented in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan since 2014 till the end of April 2019.

The stagnation of the global quest for vaccination against life-threatening diseases is not a healthy trend. The spreading of misinformation online against immunisation programmes also needs to be tackled.