Before the pandemic, five grandsons of Mamik Nariati received free vaccinations against diseases such as polio, mumps and hepatitis B in schools in Surabaya, East Java.
“But since the online school was opened last year, there have been no more immunization programs,” she told Al Jazeera.
Sarigita Andika Wati, the mother of three children in Tabanan Regency, Bali, has a similar story: “My children cannot go to school, so they cannot get free immunizations.”
According to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, 800,000 Indonesian children missed routine vaccination last year due to service disruptions due to the pandemic. These young people are among them-an increase compared to the previous year By 40%.
This is another blow to Indonesia, which has surpassed India and Brazil as the world’s latest coronavirus hotspots. On Monday, the death toll on Monday reached a record 1,338 due to overwhelmed hospitals having difficulty treating patients.
According to data from the Indonesian Society of Pediatrics, the COVID-19 infection rate among Indonesian children is also the highest in the world, accounting for one-eighth or 362,000 confirmed cases. More than 700 Indonesian children have died from the virus, and half of them are under the age of five. Without routine childhood vaccinations, they would also face the risk of some of the most deadly diseases in the world.
“From March to December last year, children’s routine immunizations did decrease, because children did not go to schools, public places and hospitals, so the coverage rate was very low,” said Dr. Siska Sinardja, a spokesperson for the organization, an Indonesian pediatrician The association told Al Jazeera. “The impact of the delay in immunization of children will be an increase in infectious diseases. But there is no data in this regard because the incidence of COVID is still rising, and all the focus is on Indonesia’s fight against COVID.”
According to data from the Vaccine Impact Modeling Coalition, vaccine programs in developing countries have prevented 37 million deaths worldwide in the past 20 years. The coalition is a global cooperative organization composed of 16 research groups and published The most comprehensive study to date on the impact of the vaccination program was published in the journal The Lancet in January.
“The seriousness of this matter cannot be underestimated. The spokesperson of the alliance, Professor Neal Ferguson of the School of Health at Imperial College London, said that due to simple vaccination, 36 million families did not feel sad for their children or infants-and These children have a chance to grow up. The consortium also estimates that if the vaccine program continues, it can prevent another 32 million deaths by 2030.
However, the global vaccination plan has been interrupted due to the pandemic, which means that the goal is unlikely to be achieved.
According to data from WHO/UNICEF, the global coverage of conventional children’s vaccines has dropped from 86% in 2019 to 83% last year—another 3.7 million children have missed the regular vaccines, which is since 2009 The highest number.
Of all the new children who missed the vaccine last year, Asia accounted for two-thirds, and the remaining one-third were in Africa and South America.
Last year, more than 2 million children in India and Pakistan did not receive the first dose of the combined diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, topping the list. But this problem is even more obvious in Indonesia, where before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia had the largest vaccination campaign in the world.
Between 2017 and 2018, approximately 70 million Indonesian school children were vaccinated with the measles-rubella combination vaccine from India. As a result, measles and rubella cases have dropped by more than 90%. But now, most of the benefits — and the broader improvements in education and development that vaccines have brought — are disappearing.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Although countries are clamoring to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, we have regressed in other vaccinations, putting children at risk of a devastating but preventable disease.” -19 For the struggling communities and health systems, the outbreak of multiple diseases will be catastrophic.”
The legacy of COVID-19
The Indonesian Ministry of Health has been working hard to solve this problem.
Prima Yosephine, the director of surveillance and quarantine at the ministry, admitted that last year’s pandemic had affected regular child vaccination programs because “there are no other options and people are afraid to take their children to public places.”
But she told Al Jazeera that at the end of last year, the ministry issued a bulletin for parents to make appointments. [for childhood vaccinations] In “puskesmas”, a national network of more than 10,000 free medical clinics in Indonesia, avoid crowds.
To commemorate World Immunization Week in April, the ministry also introduced multiple injection appointments in Puskesmas so that children can catch up.
“Therefore, although the vaccination was delayed, the children still received the complete vaccine,” Josephine said.
The mother of three Sarigita Andika Wati confirmed that she was able to vaccinate all three children this year after showing her National Health Insurance card at a hospital in Bali.
But only 81% of Indonesians are enrolled in the National Health Insurance plan, and Mamik Nariati of Surabaya City, with a population of 4 million, said her local puss cannot provide a vaccine for her two-year-old twin grandchildren.
Yosephine attributed the shortage to the overload of Puskesmas staff due to the large number of COVID-19 cases.
Sources in Java confirmed to Al Jazeera that thousands of pustules on the island have been converted into isolation wards and temporary morgues.
Gavi, the vaccine consortium that is sourcing billions of free COVID-19 vaccines for developing countries, said that countries hardest hit by the pandemic like Indonesia will need help to fill the gaps in routine immunization for children.
Dr. Seth Berkeley, CEO of Gavi, said: “This is a wake-up call-we cannot let the legacy of COVID-19 become a resurgence of measles, polio and other killers.” “The future health of millions of children and their communities around the world. And well-being depends on it.”