Photo: BIRN.

Kosovo leading in Europe for child vaccination rates

A report published by the Kosovo Institute of National Health on Monday said Kosovo leads the charge for child vaccination rates in Europe, but warned that lack of access to health services for marginalized communities continues to pose a danger.

In an effort to prevent widespread outbreaks seen elsewhere across Europe in the last month, Kosovo has made strides in comparison to other European States in the vaccination of children for measles and other contagious and infectious diseases.

According to the Kosovo Institute of National Health, IKSHPK, Kosovo’s vaccination rate is about the average in the European region, sitting at 95 per cent of all children in the country.

“In almost every European state, there have been outbreaks of measles. In almost every country in the Balkans, there have been measles outbreaks. In Kosovo, there is no measles epidemic because 95 per cent of children have been vaccinated,” said IKSHPK, before calling on parents to prioritise vaccinations in order to fight exposure to preventable diseases.

In the first four months of 2019, Kosovo had only four registered cases of measles, while neighboring countries such as North Macedonia have seen more than 900 cases of measles so far this year.

Despite these promising statistics, measles were previously a serious issue in Kosovo. In 2017, a 15-month baby from Fushe Kosove died after contracting measles. The baby was from the Roma Community, who together with both Ashkali and Egyptian communities, comprise the bulk of the five per cent of children who are not vaccinated.

Vaccination of children is obligatory according to Kosovo law, but children from the Roma community are amongst the most marginalized in Kosovo, with high poverty rates contributing to the lack of access to public health services.

IKSHPK called on parents of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities to take action in this regard.

“We appeal to all communities, especially on the parents and [political] leaders of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, to recommend that unvaccinated children come to the Family Health Centers in their respective municipalities to undergo  vaccination.”

Measles remain one of the leading causes of death in children around the world. In 2017, there were 110,000 measles deaths globally, mostly among children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization, WHO.

Many parents in different parts of the world refuse to vaccinate their children, following reports in the late 1990s that drew parallels between child vaccination and autism.  Later, the study was discredited by the WHO, who categorically denied that measles vaccinations cause autism.

According to health experts, vaccination prevents around 23 different types of viruses and two types of cancer.

Since 2000, the rate of measles-related deaths has dropped 85 per cent across the world as a result of these vaccinations.

03/06/2019 - 14:20

03 June 2019 - 14:20

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