For health workers, the death of a child always strikes hard, but this tragedy is felt deepest when it's due to a disease that is readily preventable with a safe, effective vaccine.
Professor Berthold Koletzko, a paediatrician from one of Munich’s largest hospitals, has seen firsthand the alarming consequences of children missing out on vaccination. This has led to their exposure to illnesses that, in Europe, he’d once thought confined to a distant past: diseases like measles or tetanus - which previously he’d only seen while overseas in his youth.
“What we are seeing is that more parents are no longer aware of the dangers of these diseases. When I grew up many of us knew children who were damaged because of them. We, in the hospitals, still see their impact, but for newer generations of parents, it can feel much more remote.”
According to preliminary WHO data, measles increased by around 300% globally in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same time last year, with sizeable rises in all regions of the world.
The reasons for children not getting their vaccines are diverse. The majority are the consequence of a fundamental lack of access to vaccination services, with Sub-Saharan Africa – which has the lowest coverage - accounting for the largest part of the increase, and the greatest burden of cases.
However in places with historically high immunization rates, complacency – whether from parents, health providers, politicians or governments - can also play a role, and comes at an extremely high cost.
Best wishes, Neil
Coordinator, HIFA Project on Information for Citizens, Parents and Children:
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