T.Among the effects of the Covid pandemic there is a growth in “traditional” infectious diseases, especially measles, which registers + 79% in one year
Measles worries again. Between January and February 2022 cases increased by 79% compared to the same period in 2021. That was enough, in recent weeks, to push UNICEF and WHO to launch an appeal to return to vaccination against this infectious disease, which is also one of the most contagious.
We forgot about measles and the old infectious diseases
It is one of the effects of Covid: we have forgotten the “old” infectious diseases: «What we have forgotten about traditional diseases it is clear: unfortunately we make the same mistakes of the last 30 years »comments Matteo Bassetti, director of the Infectious Diseases clinic of the San Martino hospital in Genoa. “We saw it with the Sarswith avian flu and recently also with swine: it seems that the script is repeated with every infectious type problem, so as soon as it is solved it seems that everything is forgotten ».
Cases of measles are on the rise
“The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted immunization services, health systems have been overwhelmed and we are now seeing a resurgence of life-threatening diseases, including measles. For many other diseases, the impact of these disruptions to health services will be felt for decades to come, ”said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Now is the time to get essential immunization back on track and launch recovery campaigns so everyone can have access to these life-saving vaccines“. Rocco Russo, head of the vaccination table of the Sip, the Italian Society of Pediatrics, also agrees: “Recently the scientific journal Lancet has published some data showing how, with the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, there was a drastic drop in vaccinations which continued for several months. Fortunately, there was a recovery, even if we have not yet returned to pre-Covid coverage levels ».
Measles: in Italy below the threshold of herd immunity
The decline in classic vaccinations has been general, but above all it is worrying that of measles which, as recalled by the director general of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, “is more than a dangerous and potentially fatal disease. It is also a first indication that there are gaps in our global vaccination coverage, gaps that vulnerable children cannot afford, ”she said. “It is encouraging that people are starting to feel sufficiently protected by Covid-19 to return to more social activities. But doing it in places where children don’t receive routine vaccination creates the perfect storm for the spread of a disease like measles“.
As Russo explains, “before the pandemic, the measles vaccination rate had increased by 5%. Now the situation in Italy sees a decrease in vaccinations in children within the first two years of life of 1%, therefore still quite contained. Already at five years, the decline is 3%while the adolescent bracket is concerned where measles vaccinates represent 85%, well below the 95% threshold that guarantees herd immunity»Says the head of vaccinations of the Sip.
The reasons for the decline in measles vaccinations
The reasons for which this decline was witnessed are various, as the experts underline: “The Italian situation is not isolated: a certain mistrust has been created on the anti-Covid vaccine by a slice of the population, defined as” No Vax “, As seen and read on social media. In this context old beliefs that we had tried to dispel in the last 20 and 30 years have returned, even with good results. We have begun to talk about alleged links with autism, as in the 90s, although some claims have been widely disproved by scientific evidence. Unfortunately, this has had an effect on all vaccination campaigns and in particular on measles, for which a single dose is enough to protect oneself for life ”explains Bassetti.
“The Covid effect has been felt, but I believe that there have been above all organizational difficulties. Let’s not forget that part of the health personnel – doctors and nurses – had been diverted to Covid wards during the acute emergency phase. Some vaccination clinics have had to slow down. Then the lockdown, with logistical difficulties and restrictions, and also the fear of going to health facilities on the part of parents with small children weighed. Now, however, he is recovering »comments Russo.
More risks for rubella and mumps too
Another risk, linked to the drop in measles vaccinationsis also to decrease the coverage against rubella and mumps, since the vaccine is trivalent (called MPR): “Stopping or slowing down vaccination campaigns is a mistake, both for measles and for other diseases such as rubella and mumps , but also polio and smallpox, as shown by what is happening with monkeypox – explains the infectious specialist Bassetti – let’s not forget that these diseases are never completely eradicated. Circulation may decrease, but just like polio and diphtheria new outbreaks could occur“. Globalization and the greater circulation of people from different areas of the world, but also the greater proximity between man and animal could represent reasons for a return of some old diseases or for the appearance of new ones, according to Bassetti: “Monkeypox has probably moved on to a rodent and, given the increased ‘coexistence’ due to urbanization, may have made the leap in species“.
«We must remember that where there are effective vaccines not to make them is incomprehensible»Concludes the infectious disease specialist.
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