WHO warns of disease outbreaks
Harare, April 28, 2022 (New Ziana) – ZIMBABWE should scale up its immunisation coverage to avoid outbreaks of diseases such as measles and polio, following gaps created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
The warning by WHO country representative, Dr Alex Gasasira, comes as Zimbabwe marked the Immunisation Week, commemorated annually during the last week of April.
Dr Gasasira said just like other countries globally, Zimbabwe’s immunisation reach was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“By the end of 2019, all routine immunisation coverage against all childhood illnesses was close to 90 percent which was the target,” he explained.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the disruptions to deliver essential services including routine immunisation services, which happened the past two years as a result of the pandemic, we have seen this very good performance being reversed.”
Dr Gasasira warned of a looming threat of outbreaks of childhood illnesses as a result of low vaccination.
“We have seen a lower number of children being vaccinated, we are seeing some districts achieving immunisation coverage as low as 60 percent,” he said.
According to the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Education Fund, reported cases of measles exploded by nearly 80 percent worldwide in the first two months of this year.
The WHO has been sounding the alarm in recent months about the risk of “absolute catastrophe” if the dangerous delay in vaccinating children because of the COVID-19 pandemic was not made up for, and of health restrictions not lifted too quickly.
The two UN agencies fear that serious outbreaks of measles, a highly contagious viral disease, could affect millions of children this year.
The best protection against measles, which gets its name from the characteristic red patches all over the body, is very high vaccination coverage.
According to the WHO, there have been 21 major measles outbreaks in the past 12 months mostly in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region. -New Ziana