Disrupted vaccinations pose deadly threat to 80m kids

Modesto Morganelli
Mag 23, 2020

Some 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, United Nations agencies and the GAVI vaccine alliance said on Friday.

At least 80 million babies are at risk of deadly infectious diseases because of disruption to life-saving vaccinations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"This risks putting tens of millions of children - in rich and poor countries - at risk of killer diseases like diphtheria, measles and pneumonia".

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, called for governments to keep essential services running.

"Any suspension of childhood vaccination services is a major threat to life".

Measles and polio immunisation campaigns have been particularly badly hit, with measles campaigns suspended in 27 countries and polio campaigns in 38.

If these continue to disrupt programs, GAVI chief executive Seth Berkley said, much of the world may also be unprepared to administer vaccines against COVID-19 being developed by more than 100 projects worldwide.

"We can not let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases", said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. Some parents are reluctant to leave home because of restrictions on movement or because of fears of picking up the virus.

She said countries needed to step up efforts to track unvaccinated children, and find innovative solutions, as Laos has done by immunising children in supermarkets.

Massive disruptions to global immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic have health experts fearful that much of the developing world will not be able to get a vaccine for the new coronavirus, even once one is ready.

London is hosting a virtual Global Vaccines Summit on June 4 where GAVI is seeking $7.4 billion for 2021-2025 to immunize an additional 300 million children.

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