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Vaccines in Africa During COVID-19

Vaccines in Africa during COVID-19Medical progress in developing countries could unravel during COVID-19 because the global shutdown is preventing important vaccines from reaching Africa. In fact, global health organizations struggle to dispatch health care workers, make shipments, and store medical supplies and vaccines. Health care systems have halted vaccinations for cholera, measles, polio and other diseases in order to focus on stopping COVID-19. Also, parents are afraid of bringing newborns to get vaccines during the pandemic as many health care workers have been repeatedly exposed to COVID-19. Although the WHO says that children are not a high-risk category for COVID-19, the fear of exposure could perpetuate the vaccination gap and exacerbate the problem even as governments ease restrictions.

Effects of Halting Vaccine Distribution

The postponement of vaccines in Africa during COVID-19 could lead to a dramatic resurgence of measles, cholera and other diseases that have been decreasing worldwide. Children in countries with low-quality health care might not receive these vaccines. This inequality is a problem that many organizations are trying to combat. Experts are also recommending that leaders should track and trace unvaccinated children to administer the vaccines on a later date. These proactive measures could help prevent future outbreaks.

Measles Vaccinations

Measles cases have risen globally in recent years due to growing misinformation, low-quality health care and other cultural or societal issues. Coronavirus has stalled everyday life, international travel and vaccination campaigns. Because of the impact COVID-19 has had, it is now estimated that over 117 million children in 37 countries, in which the majority are located in Africa, will likely not receive their measles vaccine. The World Health Organization and other global health foundations have expressed concerns over this new problem. Data is now showing that deaths from other diseases will likely compare to COVID-19 deaths in Africa by a ratio of 100 to one because these preventable diseases will have been overlooked. 

What is Being Done to Help

Global health organizations such as UNICEF, the Gates Foundation and other private groups provide most vaccines. Most African health care systems are already not well equipped to handle basic care and disease management. The pandemic, as well as the threat of diseases becoming more prevalent, puts a strain on these health care systems. Organizations like the Gates Foundation have noticed this excess burden on the African health care system, so they are working to help improve Emergency Operations Centers and local disease surveillance and testing. The Gates Foundation is also focusing on providing routine care as that often goes overlooked during a pandemic. The foundation is working to build up their health care systems as a whole to fight other diseases.

Most world leaders are prioritizing the containment of COVID-19; however, global health organizations are encouraging governments to do more to prevent diseases that can be treated with vaccines. 

– Jacquelyn Burrer
Photo: Flickr