Over 80 million children worldwide could be at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria, measles and polio due to disruption of routine immunisation during the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO, UNICEF, U.N, and the GAVI vaccine alliance said on Friday.
A recent data has shown that “provision of routine immunization services is substantially hindered in at least 68 countries and is likely to affect approximately 80 million children under the age of one living in these countries,” the World Health Organization, U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and GAVI said in a joint statement issued ahead of the Global Vaccine Summit set for June 4.
Travel restrictions, delays in vaccine deliveries, reluctance among some parents to leave their homes amid fear of exposure to Coronavirus, and a lack of available health workers were behind what it said may be “unprecedented” disruption on a global scale since such expanded programmes began in the 1970s.
“Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“Disruption to immunization programmes from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, he said.
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, said she and her team cannot let their fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in their fight against other diseases.
“While circumstances may require us to temporarily pause some immunization efforts, these immunizations must restart as soon as possible, or we risk exchanging one deadly outbreak for another,” she added.
According to the release by WHO, several countries are making special efforts to continue immunization. They also added that Uganda is ensuring that immunization services continue along with other essential health services, even funding transportation to ensure outreach activities.