Friday, June 24, 2022

Africa sees rise in measles, other diseases as pandemic disrupts vaccines

Medical staff look out a window at Kenyatta National Hospital on March 5, 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya.Ben Curtis / The Associated Press

Africa is seeing an increase in outbreaks of preventable diseases as a result of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Dr. Benido Ipouma, WHO expert in Africa, told a press briefing that the continent has recorded a 400 percent increase in measles, with more than 17,000 cases between January and March compared to the same period last year.

The two-year disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic “have had a major impact on the provision of routine health services, severely impacting vaccination in many countries”, he said.

Twenty-four countries reported confirmed polio outbreaks last year, four times more than in 2020, according to WHO figures. Last year 13 countries reported new outbreaks of yellow fever, increasing from nine in 2020 and three in 2019.

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“The increase in outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases is a warning sign,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement. “As Africa works hard to defeat COVID-19, we must not forget other health threats. Not only COVID-19 but other diseases can seriously affect the health system. ,

The continent of 1.3 billion people has reported 11.4 million COVID-19 cases, including 252,000 deaths, according to data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the virus had been trending downward since January, the WHO on Thursday reported a rise in cases driven by a doubling of infection rates in South Africa, the African country hardest-hit by the pandemic.

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In the wake of the pandemic, the agency wants to support countries with COVID-19 vaccination as well as routine immunization services, WHO official Ipouma said.

“The same is true for routine vaccination for COVID,” said Helen Rees, executive director of the Institute for Reproductive Health and HIV at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. “Direct health is … the problem, but it is this spinoff in terms of adversely affecting poor growth and contributing to poverty, which is absolutely critical for our region.”

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