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The recent Ebola outbreak has significantly affected health care systems and resulted in a reduction of vaccinations for common, preventable, diseases. Particularly in areas most affected, such as Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, the number of unvaccinated individuals nearly doubled. Due to this interruption of normal vaccination schedules, hundreds of thousands are now at risk of diseases such as measles, meningitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, and diphtheria.
During the Ebola epidemic, normal healthcare services were sidelined to treat those affected, and the remainder of the population avoided heath centers for fear of catching the virus. As a result, the normal number of unvaccinated children has risen from 778,000 to more than 1 million between the ages of 9 months and 5 years in these areas. Due to studies regarding vaccination rates and disease, this portion of unvaccinated children will likely lead to increased rates of disease and related deaths.
In the preceding years, gains have been made in vaccination rates across areas of West Africa, but this recent period threatens to erode the effect of these efforts. It may take years for the health care system to revert back to effective disease management and preventative care. Low vaccination rates can affect the population at large, but due the effect of travel, can affect other areas as well.