THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

WHO urges boost in routine-vaccination efforts in West Africa

Health officials fear that vaccination efforts against whooping cough, measles and other diseases in West Africa have been weakened after most resources were shifted in response to the Ebola outbreak. | Courtesy of reason.com
There has been a growing risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses in West Africa's Ebola-ravaged nations, as health resources have been concentrated on Ebola-response measures.

Health professionals are concerned about the heightened risk, specifically of pertussis (whooping cough) and measles, as well as other diseases.

To counteract this imbalance of resources during the Ebola response, the World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged health care workers in the affected nations to heighten routine immunization measures.

The WHO recently released new guidelines for maintaining immunization programs during an Ebola crisis. These guidelines will assist various nations and health workers as they work to reduce the chances of further Ebola outbreaks, as well as stop vaccine-preventable illnesses from spreading.

Experts estimate that the Ebola outbreak has sickened approximately 24,000 people, with 10,000 of those cases ending in death. Due to limited resources and Ebola concerns, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone stand at heightened risk for further outbreaks.

“We are calling for the intensification of routine immunization services in all areas, and for mass measles vaccination campaigns in areas that are free of Ebola transmission,” Dr. Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO, said.

“Any disruption of immunization services, even for short periods, will result in an increase in the number of susceptible individuals and will increase the likelihood of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks,” a WHO bulletin sent to the Ebola-affected nations earlier this week said.