We still continue to fight the global pandemic that has entrapped the social, mental and physical well-being of the people. India recently crossed the mark of 8 lakh people who have tested positive for corona virus, with approximately 2.9 lakh active cases. According to the early notifications issued by the World Health Organization regarding Covid-19 worldwide spread, the virus was reported to affect the babies, older people and people with prior chronic medical conditions the most. However, with all the major and minor healthcare resources being directed towards curing the virus-affected patients, the basic medical facilities like vaccinations and immunization have been halted temporarily, either partially or fully.
Immunization is a core essential health service, especially for children below the age of 5 years. Primary immunization in a child’s life should not be delayed as it protects against diseases including pneumonia, diarrhea, meningitis, whooping cough and measles. In its guidelines, WHO has suggested that “During an epidemic, even a temporary interruption of basic health-care delivery such as routine vaccination/immunization services may lead to secondary health crises such as measles outbreaks during or after the recovery phase, amplifying the economic damage of the epidemic and exacerbating morbidity and mortality”.
The routine vaccination and immunization programs have been highly compromised due to various reasons during the corona crisis. Most common reason includes shutting down of these services or shifting of the immunization facility to support the Covid-19 patients. The other reason is the fear induced in the parents to take their children out for these services at such facilities with patients who are already fighting the corona virus. Disruption of continuity of these services may lead to major outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases that could be catastrophic for the communities and health systems of nations which are already battling the impacts of Covid-19.
While the countries globally accelerate the struggle of developing a vaccine against this new pandemic spread, it must ensure to protect its people against those diseases for which vaccines already exist. According to UNICEF, over 117 million children in 37 countries have missed out on receiving the measles vaccination over the past month. Some 26 countries have postponed their measles immunization campaigns to prevent a further spread of COVID-19 will join them in the coming weeks. In India, a majority of immunization services are provided by community-outreach facilities and due to the nationwide lockdown, these services have been shut down. The government needs to come up with strategic and timely decisions to tackle the shortage of health care workers and facilities, in case it plans to further extend the lockdown services. All the children who have missed their vaccinations as a result of the lockdown need to be listed and a systematic process needs to be maintained to follow up with their timely vaccinations further. A failure to act now will open up space for more and deadlier epidemics in the coming months.
Visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/health-cannot-wait/ to read about how Smile Foundation is spreading awareness about and ensuring access of primary healthcare services, with special attention to children and mothers, through its healthcare programme.