Child Immunisation Under Threat during COVID-19

art-296-01Disruption in the delivery of immunisation services worldwide due to COVID-19 has caused an “alarming decline” in the number of children receiving lifesaving vaccines, according to the WHO and UNICEF

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting immunisation gains among children at risk, warn the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) in a report on 15 July 2020.

This is according to the latest data from both UN agencies, which demonstrates the impact the pandemic has towards enhancements in immunisation expansion to over 100 countries.

The WHO and UNICEF elaborate that due to COVID-19, at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns are at risk of being cancelled globally, and that could potentially lead to outbreaks this year and beyond.

Furthermore, in a UN survey on 82 countries, three-quarters of them have reported disruptions in their immunisation services as a result of the pandemic.

Among reasons cited by health workers include travel restrictions, redeployment to COVID-19 response and lack of personal protective equipment.

Meanwhile, people are unable to access even in areas where immunisation services are provided due to reasons including reluctance to leave home, transport interruptions, economic hardship, movement restrictions, and fear of being exposed to people who have COVID-19.

The WHO and UNICEF, therefore, are urging countries around the world to take immediate action to provide vaccination to all children, given that progress has been impeded by a decade of stalling coverage.

“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunised than ever before”, said the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“But the pandemic has put those gains at risk. The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunisations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself.

“But it doesn’t have to be that way. Vaccines can be delivered safely even during the pandemic, and we are calling on countries to ensure these essential lifesaving programmes continue,” he adds.

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