Africa: Covid-19 – 16.6 Million Africa Children Miss Measles Vaccination – WHO

Ms Moeti said the outbreaks were largely due to low routine immunisation coverage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 16.6 million children in Africa missed planned supplemental measles vaccine doses between January 2020 and April 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, made this known during a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group on Thursday.

In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, Ms Moeti said the outbreaks were largely due to low routine immunisation coverage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said eight African countries reported major measles outbreaks that affected tens of thousands during the aforementioned period.

She noted that 15 African countries delayed measles immunisation drives in 2020 as they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although seven of these countries have now completed the campaigns, the remaining eight still pose a risk of major measles outbreaks, the regional director said.

According to Ms Moeti, the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to over 3 million deaths globally left gaps in routine immunisation coverage in the Africa region.

“Recent outbreaks of measles, but also yellow fever, cholera and meningitis all point to worrying gaps in immunisation coverage and surveillance in Africa,” Ms Moeti said.

“As we fight COVID-19, we cannot leave anyone dangerously exposed to preventable diseases.”

She urge all countries to double down on essential health services, including life-saving vaccination campaigns.

Preventable Disease

Measles is highly contagious, requiring at least 95 per cent immunization coverage in the population to prevent outbreaks, yet coverage with the first dose of the measles-containing vaccine has stagnated at around 69 per cent in the WHO African Region since 2013.

Only seven countries in the region achieved 95 per cent measles-containing vaccine coverage in 2019.

The low measles coverage reflects a wider stagnation in routine immunization in Africa that, in some countries, has been exacerbated by the pandemic and related restrictions, the WHO said.

According to the health agency, some diseases including tetanus, diphtheria and yellow fever, require 90 per cent coverage in the population, yet rates in Africa remained stuck at around 70 to 75 per cent over the last decade.