Highly contagious virus threatens children after millions miss out on vaccines

DOCTORS have warned that children are at risk of contracting a highly contagious virus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of children globally are thought to have missed out on measles vaccinations due to bans and restrictions put in place by governments to protect people from Covid-19.

Experts have warned that we cannot replace the spread of one deadly disease with another.


Experts have warned that we cannot replace the spread of one deadly disease with another.Credit: Getty – Contributor

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that this is the largest number of missed vaccinations in decades.

Around 22 million children worldwide are thought to have missed out on vaccines by 2020.

Since 2016, there has been an increase in measles cases in the UK and the NHS says this is due to a drop in absorption of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

Anyone can get measles if they have not been vaccinated or have never had it, although it is most common in young children.

Due to the availability of injectable drugs, cases are relatively uncommon. But cases can spike if an outbreak occurs.

Although the infection usually clears up in less than two weeks, it can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.

Measles kills around 60,000 people a year and it was reported in February that some areas in the UK have seen a drop in children get their stabs.

In the last few years there have been outbreaks in Samoa and Afghanistan.

Now, the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have warned that the pre-pandemic drop in measles is the ‘calm before the storm’.

Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s immunization division, said the risk of disease outbreaks has increased globally as resources have been diverted to Covid.

“It’s important for countries to immunize as quickly as possible against Covid, but this requires new resources so it doesn’t come at the expense of essential vaccination programmes,” she said.

“Regular immunization must be protected and enhanced; otherwise, we risk trading one deadly disease for another. “

What are the symptoms of measles?

About 10 days after the disease is in remission, signs become noticeable.

NHS outlines early symptoms of measles…

  • cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, and coughing
  • painful, red eyes may be sensitive to light
  • high temperature (fever), possibly up to about 40C (104F)
  • small grayish white spots on the inside of the cheeks

A few days after these flu-like symptoms appear, a rash usually begins to appear.

Raised red-brown spots on the body, usually starting on the upper neck and spreading downwards.

Serious complications can occur, including miscarriage in pregnant women, brain swelling, and the risk of dying from pneumonia.

Anxious parents steer clear of GP surgeries during the pandemic and in the UK, MMR vaccine rates a quarter off.

A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that vaccination rates are already at a seven-year low and that by 2020, fewer than 3,500 children will be vaccinated.

This year, the proportion of children getting the MMR vaccine in the UK has fallen by 2%, the JCVI said at its quarterly meeting in August.

Ephrem Tekle Lemango, Unicef’s deputy director of immunization, says that Covid has created gaps in coverage.

He added: “If we don’t act, gaps will become outbreaks, and many children will be exposed to a preventable but potentially deadly disease.”

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