TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Lack of vaccinations in West Africa dangerous for children

Lack of vaccinations in Liberia dangerous for children | Courtesy of msf.org
Liberia and other West African countries impacted by the Ebola outbreak have reduced their vaccination activities for other diseases to dedicate more resources to battling Ebola, placing children at greater health risks for illness.

Health professionals have encouraged the governments of Liberia and other West African countries to return to their routine vaccination activities in order to protect their children. To assist, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) recently conducted a campaign for measles vaccinations in Montserrado County in Liberia.

“Like every other medical service in the country, the Ebola outbreak has significantly reduced vaccination activities too,” DWB's Philippe Le Vaillant said. “The Liberian authorities reported that the number of children vaccinated monthly had dropped by 60 percent at the end of 2014. Measles vaccination coverage also fell to 58 percent, while the minimum acceptable level should be at least 80 percent to protect against the virus. As of January, an estimated 92,000 children below one-year old in Liberia had not been vaccinated at all and are therefore today vulnerable to various preventable childhood diseases.”

Now that the severity of the Ebola crisis has abated, health professionals are optimistic about the future of health care in West Africa.

“In Monrovia, the majority of health facilities have reopened and most of them are able to provide routine immunization,” Le Vaillant said. “But health workers first need reassurance before performing injections, as contact with blood is one of the main risks of contamination. People are also still afraid to seek care in medical facilities. One of our priorities is to overcome the loss of confidence in the health system, of both health care workers and patients, through training and community awareness.”