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Africa: Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Surging in Africa Due to Covid-19 Disruptions

Africa: Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Surging in Africa Due to Covid-19 Disruptions


Geneva — The World Health Organization warns that vaccine-preventable diseases are spreading across the African continent because routine immunizations against killer diseases have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tens of millions of people have missed out on routine immunization services. That not only puts their lives at risk from potentially deadly diseases but creates an environment in which killer diseases can thrive and spread.

Benido Impouma, director for communicable and noncommunicable diseases in the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa, said the pandemic has put a huge strain on health systems. It has impaired routine immunization services in many African countries and forced the suspension of vaccination drives.

Over the past year, he said, outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases have increased across the continent.

“For instance, between January and March of this year, around 17,000 cases of measles were recorded. This is a 400 percent increase compared with the same period last year,” Impouma said. “Twenty-four countries in our region confirmed outbreaks of a variant of polio last year, which is four times more than in 2020.”

He noted that outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as yellow fever, also are surging.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF recently issued a report warning of a heightened risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. They attribute it in large part to increasing inequalities in access to vaccines due to pandemic-related disruptions.

They expressed particular concern about a worldwide spike in measles cases, which have increased by 79 percent in the first two months of this year. They noted that most cases were reported in Africa and in eastern Mediterranean regions.