The entire world is on its haunches to celebrate the invention of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks threatens lower-income countries. The importance of mass immunisation is not properly recognised might be an understatement. Not only lower-income countries, but every country which prioritises its public and family health and welfare understands what effects follow the absence of mass immunisation programs. Although cases of COVID-19 in Africa are fairly low in comparison with other parts of the world, the pandemic has rendered the healthcare system useless to address other diseases and outbreaks.
Richard Wamai, an associate professor of Culture, Societies, and Global Studies at the Northeastern University, with expertise in the field of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), is concerned with the vulnerable position of the health facilities in Africa. He explains that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates probably 117 million children will miss out on vaccines this year. These mass immunisation programs help control and provide vaccines for diseases such as measles, polio, HIV, cholera, and yellow fever. Wamai fears that COVID-19 will result in decreased access to healthcare facilities, especially in countries like Africa where the population depends on government-aided mass immunisation campaigns.
Wamai’s worry associates with the fact that COVID-19 will affect these people in dire regions anyhow. Because other preventable diseases may cause outbreaks in the absence of the their respective vaccines. Understandably, healthcare providers and medical institutions are now facing a tough decision regarding this. However, a decision has to made and soon. Because while ignoring NTDs for coronavirus, the world could face another outbreak in the name of cholera or measles. We can only pray that the medical professionals and policymakers do right by everyone, regardless of the COVID-19 situation.