Ayan Islam, son of Yusuf Ali of Mohammadpur in Chattogram city, was born before the Covid-19 outbreak. He is now three months old. Vaccines such as polio, hepatitis-B and hemophilia are required for newborns from 6 weeks after birth, but no vaccine has yet been given to Ayan.
Hathazari housewife Shamsun Nahar is worried as her one-year-old child Miftahul Jannat was not vaccinated against measles and rubella.
"As my first child, Meraj, was not vaccinated against rotavirus, he has had diarrhea more than once. For this, he had to be admitted to hospital," she said
"So, I thought I would have my daughter vaccinated accordingly. I have already had seven vaccines given to her. But I can't give her the rest of the vaccines because of Covid-19," the mother added.
Not only Ayan and Jannat, but many children here too are not getting the required vaccines due to Covid-19 since the vaccination of children has been halted without any formal announcement.
As many as 21 lakh children in Chattogram were deprived of measles-rubella vaccines in March, with the vaccination program getting suspended twice due to Covid-19.
Physicians said 10 vaccines are currently given to each child between the ages of six months and a year and a half. Children's immunity is developed through vaccination. Vaccination is the only way to protect children from multiple diseases, including polio, measles, hepatitis B and tuberculosis. The matter is a cause for worry as it is not possible for children to be given any kind of vaccine at present.
Dr Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Chattogram Medical College Hospital, said a regular vaccination program is the key to a reduction of the infant mortality rate in the country.
"There will be diarrhea in hot weather. Earlier, children had to be vaccinated against rotavirus. But now it is not possible to give them vaccines. I am already getting patients with rotavirus. In addition, many children in Chattogram are infected with measles every year. "
If children are deprived of the vaccines, they will suffer from various diseases for the rest of their lives. Therefore, vaccination should be introduced on an emergency basis, he added.
Chittagong City Corporation Health Officer Dr Mohammad Ali Chowdhury said 7.5 lakh children are eligible for measles vaccination in the city. Every year, many children reportedly die due to measles. This disease is prevented through the measles vaccine. A failure to vaccinate can lead to serious problems. Besides, other vaccines are not being given to the children due to Covid-19.
In the meantime, many children have died of measles in Sajek area of Khagrachari district. Measles-rubella vaccinations were arranged there on an emergency basis.
In 2016, many children died of measles in rural areas. In 2019, measles claimed the lives of many children at Monai Tripura Palli in Hathazari upazila.
Hathazari Upazila Health and Family Planning Officer Abu Mohammad Imtiaz said, "As villagers are unaware, we have to go to them and get them vaccinated. But door to door vaccination is now stopped due to coronavirus. So even if these villages are not vaccinated urgently, there is a risk of children infected with measles."
Chattogram Civil Surgeon Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) is being implemented at medical centers, including the Upazila Health Complexes. Anyone who wants to get vaccinated urgently can go to these centers and avail their services.
"The measles vaccination program has been suspended centrally. So, we can't make any decision," he added.
Under the EPI, after birth, children need to be vaccinated against 10 diseases, including BCG (tuberculosis), MR (measles rubella), measles (measles), pentavalent (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and influenza) and polio. Besides, the tetanus vaccine is given to pregnant and lactating women.