Fighting Measles amid the COVID-19 (coronavirus) Pandemic

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Source: Julien Harneis, “A Child Being Vaccinated against Measles by UNICEF at Kibati Camp in Rubavu District, Western Province, Rwanda, a Camp for Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” wikimedia.org, Nov. 13, 2008

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has paused many vaccine programs in low- and middle-income countries, causing the United Nations and global health experts to warn that over 100 million children could be at risk for measles.

Cambodia, Mexico, Nigeria, and at least 21 other countries have temporarily suspended their vaccine programs during the pandemic because children are vaccinated in large groups at markets, schools, or religious buildings, which would put families at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Robin Nandy, MD, Chief of Immunization for UNICEF, stated, “In our quest to vaccinate kids, we shouldn’t contribute to the spread of Covid-19,” he said. “But we don’t want a country that is recovering from an outbreak of it to then be dealing with a measles or diphtheria outbreak.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is encouraging parents in the United States to maintain vaccination appointments for their children, especially those under two years old.

Beate Kampmann, MD, Director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, echoed the AAP, stating, “Even in resource-rich settings there is a danger of measles raising its ugly head in the not-too-distant future, hence it is even more important to sustain routine immunizations.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some vaccine-hesitant parents have rethought their positions. Haley Searcy, a mother in Florida, told CNN that she previously considered vaccines to be dangerous and unnecessary, but, “Since Covid-19, I’ve seen firsthand what these diseases can do when they’re not being fought with vaccines.”

Isaac Lindenberger, whose mother refused to vaccinate him as a child, stated, “I definitely see the positive effect in anti-vaxxers that previously would not have considered vaccination. It’s way harder to be in a state of denial when it comes to the objective truth of the dangers of these infectious diseases when you’re experiencing a pandemic.”

Some anti-vaccine advocates are maintaining their positions. Lynette Marie Barron, administrator of the anti-vaccination group Tough Love, argued that some people are now seeing her side of the debate because they are “pretty freaked out” about COVID-19 vaccine development: “Them rushing this [a vaccine] like they are… they have no idea what the effects of this are going to be.”

Tennis player Novak Djokovic, the men’s world No.1, expressed concerns about the possibility of being required to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to professional tennis when the time comes. “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said.

All 50 states require some vaccines for kids to attend public schools, including diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTap), measles and rubella, and chickenpox.

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should vaccines be mandatory for children entering kindergarten? Why or why not?

2. Should parents be able to opt out of vaccines for their children for religious reasons? Explain your answer.

3. How should disease such as the measles be fought amid a global pandemic? Explain your answer.

Sources:

Claudia Harmata, “Pediatricians Want Parents to Keep Children’s Vaccination Appointments amid Coronavirus,” people.com, Apr. 17, 2020

Jan Hoffman, “Millions of Children Are at Risk for Measles as Coronavirus Fears Halt Vaccines,” nytimes.com, Apr. 13, 2020

Emma Reynolds, “Some Anti-Vaxxers Are Changing Their Minds because of the Coronavirus Pandemic,” cnn.com, Apr. 20, 2020