By Vatican News staff writer
Severe shortages of critical vaccines in Libya are threatening the health of the country’s children, the UN Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on Thursday.
UNICEF and WHO lament a global “alarming decline” in the number of vaccines. In Libya particularly, the decline is directly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the closure of international borders, movement restrictions, and delays in procuring and distributing vaccines.
These wide-ranging disruptions caused by the ongoing health crisis have resulted in the closure of many vaccination centers and have disrupted children’s immunization schedules over the past seven months, putting about 250,000 children at increased risk of disease and death.
A recent assessment of 200 of Libya’s 700 vaccine sites by the National Center for Disease Control, with the support of UNICEF and WHO, show that in all 200 sites, stocks of critical BCG and hexavalent vaccines were extremely limited or had already run out. The assessment also showed that polio and measles vaccines were expected to run out by the end of the year.
The BCG vaccine protects children against tuberculosis, while the hexavalent vaccine prevents diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, Haemophilus B and hepatitis B.
Appeal to government
Warning that preventable diseases are likely to spread quickly and with dire consequences, UNICEF and WHO are urging national authorities to “secure the immediate release of funds to replenish the country’s vaccine supply.”
The international organizations note that “vaccines are one of the most critical public health interventions globally” as immunization protects children against vaccine-preventable disease and reduces childhood mortality.
UNICEF representative in Libya, Abdulkadir Musse also noted that even as the world is looking at ways to curb the spread of the pandemic, it is important to sustain the gains achieved through the Expanded Programme on Immunization in Libya. Musse added that “it is essential that all the vaccination sites receive an immediate supply of all vaccines to ensure uninterrupted implementation of the immunization schedule based on the national protocols.”