About 16.6 million children in Africa missed planned supplemental measles vaccine doses between January 2020 and April 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, made this known during a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group on Thursday.
In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, Ms Moeti said the outbreaks were largely due to low routine immunisation coverage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said eight African countries reported major measles outbreaks that affected tens of thousands during the aforementioned period.
She noted that 15 African countries delayed measles immunisation drives in 2020 as they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although seven of these countries have now completed the campaigns, the remaining eight still pose a risk of major measles outbreaks, the regional director said.
According to Ms Moeti, the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to over 3 million deaths globally left gaps in routine immunisation coverage in the Africa region.
“Recent outbreaks of measles, but also yellow fever, cholera and meningitis all point to worrying gaps in immunisation coverage and surveillance in Africa,” Ms Moeti said.
“As we fight COVID-19, we cannot leave anyone dangerously exposed to preventable diseases.”