Morocco: 60% of children missed their vaccines during Covid-19 lockdown

The ongoing public health emergency enforced in Morocco since March 20 to prevent the spread of covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the country’s routine pediatric vaccines and medical care of patients with chronic diseases.

The Moroccan Pediatrics Society and the National Health Federation have sounded lately the alarm bell over the serious health risks of the decline in children vaccine administration, said on Friday local l’Economiste daily.

According to Jaâfar Heikel, Vice-Pdt of the National Health Federation (FNS), over 60 pc of Moroccan children missed life-saving vaccines during the coronavirus lockdown as people were ordered to stay indoors to curb the spread of Covid-19 and limit their movement outside their home to essential and urgent activities.

Private dentists, general practitioners, and pediatricians had closed their practices, switching to telephone or video consultations while some limited their work to emergencies only like other services around the country.

Health professionals have expressed concern over missed or delayed routine child vaccinations against measles, rubella, mumps, polio, diphtheria, meningitis, tetanus and whooping cough.

They warn that some of these diseases are much more contagious than the coronavirus, saying that delay of immunization against these infections could lead to the outbreak of dangerous diseases among children under 18 months when the covid-19 lockdown is lifted. Such delays could also overburden the health care system with a rush of parents seeking to immunize their children when the restrictions are eased.

To avoid hospital overloading, the Moroccan health ministry has launched an awareness campaign to address this issue but some parents are still concerned about potentially exposing their children to the coronavirus if they go out.

Besides the issue of children’s immunization, the health professionals have also to tackle the urgent situation of patients with chronic diseases who need timely and regular medical care.

Last week, Health minister Khalid Aït Taleb, urged all patients suffering from chronic diseases to go to public or private practices to receive their routine check-up and treatments, stressing that “the fear of coronavirus infection is no longer justified”.

Covid-19 has so far killed 212 people in Morocco, which reports 15,000 deaths of cancer diseases every year, said the minister.

As Moroccan authorities are relaxing lockdown rules, a rapid, safe and orderly catch-up can be achieved with continued respect of social distancing, face covering and other precaution measures required by the state of health emergency to end by July 10 if the epidemiological situation remains under control.

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