Millions of children miss measles shots, creating outbreaks — UNICEF

Millions of children miss measles shots, creating outbreaks — UNICEF
The United States recorded 695 cases of measles in 2019, the most of any year since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, health authorities said on April 24, 2019. (AFP / Johannes Eisele)
Updated 25 April 2019

Millions of children miss measles shots, creating outbreaks — UNICEF

Millions of children miss measles shots, creating outbreaks — UNICEF

LONDON: More than 20 million children a year missed out on measles vaccines across the world in the past eight years, laying a path of exposure to a virus that is now causing disease outbreaks globally, a United Nations report said on Thursday.
“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF, adding: “The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago.”
The UNICEF report said an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 — equating to 21.1 million children a year on average.
As a result of greater vulnerability to the disease, the measles infections worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 against the same period in 2018 to 112,163 cases, according to World Health Organization data.
In 2017, some 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles — up 22 percent from the year before, UNICEF said.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can kill and can cause blindness, deafness or brain damage. It is currently spreading in outbreaks in many parts of the world, including in the United States, Europe, the Philippines, Tunisia and Thailand.
Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children and the WHO says 95 percent vaccine coverage is needed for “herd immunity” against measles.
But due to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases fear or skepticism about vaccines, UNICEF said, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85 percent in 2017 — a level that has remained similar for the past decade. Global coverage for the second dose is even lower, at 67 percent.
Among high-income countries, the United States — which currently is fighting its biggest measles outbreak in almost 20 years — topped UNICEF’s list of places with the most children missing the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at more than 2.5 million.
Next came France and Britain, with more than 600,000 and 500,000 unvaccinated children, respectively, during the same period.
In poorer countries, however, the situation is “critical,” UNICEF’s report found. Nigeria in 2017, for example, had the highest number of children under one year old who missed out on the first dose, at nearly 4 million. It was followed by India, with 2.9 million, Pakistan and Indonesia, with 1.2 million each, and Ethiopia, with 1.1 million.
Fore said measles was “far too contagious” a disease to be ignored, and urged health officials to do more to fight it.
“If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike,” she said.


Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
Updated 49 min 1 sec ago

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
  • Indonesia planning to inoculate 181 million in nationwide vaccination drive

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government’s strategy to promote coronavirus vaccination is under fire after an influencer who received a vaccine jab last week was spotted violating health guidelines just a few
hours later.

Indonesia started the nationwide vaccination drive on Wednesday to inoculate 181 million of its 276 million people, after the national drug regulator authorized the emergency use of the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech and the country’s highest authority on Islamic affairs approved it as halal, or permissible under Islamic law.

President Joko Widodo, who was the first Indonesian to receive the vaccine, described the campaign as a “game changer,” amid hopes that achieving herd immunity would help to revive the economy, which has been reeling from the pandemic. 

Alongside officials and religious leaders, 33-year-old soap opera star Raffi Ahmad also received the jab. Government strategists hoped he would promote vaccine acceptance with his huge social media presence of some 50 million followers on Instagram and 19 million on YouTube.

However, soon after receiving his shot Ahmad was photographed at a party, without a face mask and violating social distancing measures imposed by the government to contain the virus spread. The photos quickly made the rounds on social media, provoking a backlash to the government’s campaign and resulting in a lawsuit against the celebrity.

“He was really careless. He is tasked with promoting the vaccination drive, but he failed to behave accordingly,” said David Tobing, an independent lawyer who has filed the case against Ahmad for “violating the regulations to control the pandemic and for public indecency.”

“I demand in my lawsuit that the court order Ahmad to stay at home for 30 days after he gets his second vaccine jab and to issue a public apology in national print and broadcast media,” Tobing told Arab News on Saturday. “I filed the lawsuit after I received a lot of feedback from the public, including COVID-19 survivors and those who have lost loved ones because of the coronavirus.”

Ahmad has apologized on social media, saying that he did not want to disappoint the president and the public after getting the privilege of being vaccinated, but justified going to the party as it was held at a private home and said that he taken the mask off only to eat. The first hearing against Ahmad is scheduled to be held at a district court in Depok near Jakarta on Jan. 27, Tobing said. He added that he is aware that Ahmad had apologized but the actor “did not seem to have any regret.”

In response to a question by Arab News at a press briefing after the incident, national COVID-19 task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said that officials had reprimanded Ahmad over the blunder. He justified the involvement of celebrities in the vaccination campaign.

“When we have a major program like vaccination, we hope that a big influencer such as Raffi Ahmad can play a pivotal role to make sure young people will support the vaccination,” Adisasmito said.

Experts have criticized the government’s strategy, saying that Ahmad receiving the vaccine is unlikely to appease public concerns over the vaccine’s efficacy and possible side effects.

“Health professionals, religious figures and government officials have more credibility and integrity to promote this vaccination drive than influencers,” said Sulfikar Amir, a sociologist from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Amir, who initiated a petition in early December calling on the government to give vaccinations to all citizens when Jakarta was still planning to inoculate only selected groups, said that by appointing the celebrity influencer to promote immunization the government showed that it “has no ability to influence the public to take part in the vaccination drive.”

“This is not the same as promoting consumer goods that the influencers normally do,” he said. “It is about public health issues.”