Health experts in Sierra Leone said the country’s current Ebola crisis could well be masking outbreaks of other diseases. Since the virus took hold, immunologists say fewer parents are taking their children for vaccinations against preventable diseases like measles and polio. CCTV America’s Katerina Vittozzi reported from Freetown.
Health experts said Ebola fears have put parents off bringing their children for their immunizations. The U.N.’s children’s agency, UNICEF, estimated a drop of more than 20 percent. It is leaving children open to diseases like measles, polio and yellow fever.
“Some are afraid to come for vaccinations because of Ebola. Us, we are not discouraged because the nurses are advising us to come for the vaccination for the sake of our children. We try and encourage our friends who are afraid to come here to come and get the jabs,” Freetown resident Deborah Anthony said.
Not only are parents worried, some vaccination clinics have closed too. Many healthcare staff members are scared to treat patients in fear they might catch Ebola.
The drop in the vaccination rate is a particularly bitter pill for clinicians to swallow because vaccination programs in Sierra Leone had been a huge success. More than 90 percent of households were bringing in their children for vaccinations. Although experts say the number is slowly climbing again, it warns that the damage may already be done.
The World Health Organization advised against vaccination awareness campaigns during an Ebola outbreak and all campaigns have been suspended. Efforts are instead channeled at making the clinics that remain open, safe.