KARACHI: As a majority of children were not vaccinated for almost last two months due to the coronavirus lockdown, health experts in Sindh expressed the fear on Friday that the situation could lead to another challenge with the outbreak of extensively drug resistant (XDR) typhoid, diphtheria and measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases among children.
They raised the alarm that parents had not visited vaccination centres for vaccination of their children and called for immediate measures for active role of all segments of society before the situation could slip out of control.
“The cases of measles in first four months of the year have already shown an upward trend in Sindh,” said Professor Dr Jamal Raza of the National Institute of Child Health while speaking to journalists at the start of World Immunisation Week observed from April 24 every year to emphasise the importance of vaccines.
“If this situation continues and parents keep skipping necessary vaccination of their children, I fear a strong possibility of a measles outbreak in Sindh and mainly in Karachi. We realise that the situation is difficult amid lockdown and routine vaccination among children has dropped to an alarming level. But we have to accept it and do our best for our children despite all challenges.”
He said coronavirus was a global challenge and the entire world was looking for a way out through vaccine, but unfortunately, people here in Pakistan were not getting their children vaccinated against diseases whose vaccines were already available.
“The situation has turned so critical that the routine vaccination has dropped to 60 per cent in Sindh and in some districts like Malir and South, it has come down to as low as 33 per cent,” said Professor Raza.
“Due to the lockdown and other issues, parents are not leaving their homes to get their children vaccinated. But they should take this issue seriously and get their children vaccinated as soon as possible,” he added.
Dr Akram Sultan, the project director of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in Sindh agreed with the concerns of Professor Raza.
“If the parents continue to stay at home and refuse to get their children vaccinated, we may face an outbreak of measles. One should know that measles is more contagious than Covid-19,” he said.
He also admitted that many of their vaccination centres were closed in February and March. “But now we have arranged personal protective equipment (PPE) for the vaccination staff and over 90 per cent of the fixed EPI centres are open for vaccination.”
Dr Naseem Salahuddin, the head of department for infectious diseases at Indus Hospital also expressed concern about the vaccination problem.
“There should also be arrangements in place for import and availability of the measles vaccine in the country. Due to lockdown and travel restrictions, importers are facing problems in getting the vaccine delivered to Pakistan and this situation can lead to a serious public health issue in the country,” she said.
Prof Dr Khalid Shafi of Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) also urged the parents to get their children vaccinated against measles, XDR typhoid, diphtheria and other preventable diseases.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2020