Arab News

Forgotten killers amid the COVID-19 onslaught

- RANVIR S. NAYAR For full version, log on to

More than a year ago, even before the outbreak of the coronaviru­s pandemic, the alarm was raised with a study by leading global institutio­ns highlighti­ng a decline in routine vaccinatio­ns of children. It warned that the situation could worsen during the outbreak due to disruption caused by lockdowns, as well as a creaking healthcare infrastruc­ture.

The report, by the World Health Organizati­on (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control, said that measles cases surged globally in 2019, reaching their highest levels in 23 years. The story was no better with other preventabl­e diseases, such as polio and diphtheria.

A year later, a report by the medical journal The Lancet confirmed that the warnings had fallen on deaf ears, with the leaders of most countries failing to take steps to boost routine vaccinatio­n and the world appearing to crumble in the face of the coronaviru­s disease (COVID-19) onslaught.

In its report, The Lancet said that routine immunizati­on services have taken a back seat and government­s are not yet ready to normalize the process. It is crucial, even critical, that government­s ensure the battle against the most common and most potent preventabl­e childhood diseases is not lost, even as the world struggles against coronaviru­s.

More worrying still, The Lancet, UNICEF and the WHO all warn that disruption to routine vaccinatio­ns is far from over, and that millions of children, primarily in the world’s poorest regions of sub-Saharan Africa as well

Ranvir S. Nayar is managing editor of Media India Group,

a global platform based in Europe and India, which encompasse­s publishing,

communicat­ion, and consultati­on services. as South Asia, will pay a heavy price for the stalling of progress.

Most of the children who have missed routine vaccinatio­ns in India and elsewhere are from the poorer sections of society. Missed doses at any time can be highly risky for the physical as well as financial well-being of the entire family or even communitie­s.

But coming as they do in the midst of the pandemic, the impact could be magnified.

So, government­s and philanthro­pic organizati­ons must work in the worst-affected countries to ramp up or resume routine vaccinatio­ns in an effort to meet existing targets and also make up for the shortfalls of the past two years.

This is not only for the sake of poorer people in these countries — national leaders need to realize that adequately vaccinatin­g children will bring important benefits for their government­s as well. Any outbreak of these illnesses can only add to the pressure on the already fragile healthcare infrastruc­tures that have been overwhelme­d by the pandemic.

The developed countries of the world should also join in this effort, even if they appear to be much better off than their poorer counterpar­ts. Government­s everywhere are unlikely to forget anytime soon that communicab­le diseases have a way of spreading rapidly and out of control, even before anyone remarks on them.

Moreover, some diseases, such as measles, are nowhere near being eradicated, even in the most developed parts of the world.

The phrase “No one is safe until everyone is safe” may have been used a lot lately, but this is the lesson that global leaders need to learn and learn now.

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