By Earyel Bowleg
GLOBAL health experts have warned of the importance of maintaining vaccinations during the COVID-19 epidemic to ensure there is no revival of other diseases such as flu and measles.
Ahead of Vaccination Week in the Americas next week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO) sent out a press release on Friday highlighting the importance of vaccinations in preventing serious respiratory illness and preventing an outbreak of measles, saying it will help to protect people while health systems focus on COVID-19. Currently, three countries in the Americas, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, are battling measles outbreaks, as well as dealing with COVID-19 cases.
This week, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Delon Brennen spoke about the challenge of ensuring immunisation continues during the current crisis.
He said: “It is a challenge being able to get our young children, especially infants to get their immunisation so there is some delay that is currently happening, some just out of fear, some out of closure of offices and so what we are currently doing is putting together a strategy to make sure we are redesigning parts of our immunisation programme to make it more community accessible and even thinking about doing delivering immunisation in people’s homes as opposed to waiting for them to come to us.”
The Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) will hold Vaccination Week in the Americas until May 2, with the slogan “Love. Trust. Protect. #GetVax”.
“Vaccines save lives and must be maintained even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most vulnerables should not suffer the consequences of not getting the vaccines they need,” said PAHO director Carissa Etienne. “I commend countries in this region that have already adapted their campaigns to this ‘new reality’ and are making great efforts to keep vaccinating in a safe manner.”
The organisations reiterated the need to vaccinate against serious respiratory illness from flu and to stop measles outbreaks, saying it will help to protect people while health systems focus on COVID-19.
“Vaccination is key not just for our communities, but also for our health care workers. We vaccinate to protect them just as much as to protect ourselves,” said Cuauhtemoc Ruiz Matus, head of the comprehensive family immunisation programme at PAHO.
Some countries have set up vaccination posts in schools presently empty because of coronavirus, as well as at supermarkets and pharmacies. Others have set up posts in banks – while special teams have been set up in some countries to immunise people in nursing homes and jails to reach at-risk groups.
Under the regional initiative promoted by PAHO, the organisation revealed more than 806 million people of all ages have been vaccinated against a wide range of dangerous diseases since 2003. WHO said there were 413,308 confirmed measles cases reported to WHO as of November 5, 2019.