Over 13 million children globally missed out routine vaccinations

Henrietta Strickland
April 30, 2020

"Although COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll, World Health Organization is deeply concerned about the impact the pandemic will have on other services, especially for children".

Sporadic outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles and diphtheria, have already been seen in parts of Bangladesh amid the outbreak of Covid-19, according to a UNICEF statement.

Pakistan, which along with Afghanistan is home to one of the world's last polio outbreaks, has suspended its vaccination campaign against the crippling disease.

Numerous health facilities throughout the region, where millions of children are normally vaccinated, have been closed, and outreach sessions have been suspended, adding to the challenge.

"We completely stopped our efforts since the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and missed two important campaigns so far", said one official with the polio eradication program in Peshawar, adding he expected it would be months before the campaign could resume.

The UNICEF estimates that 182 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2018, or 20.3 million children a year on average.

"Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that childhood immunisation rates remain high so as to avoid outbreaks of preventable childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough, which would be even more devastating at the moment due to the strain on the health system." .

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has warned that stopping immunisation services amid the COVID-19 pandemic could leave millions of children at health risk.

Beyond measles, the immunisation gaps were already quite dire, according to new regional profiles developed by the UNICEF. "This accounts for 58% of global deaths from these diseases", says the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. For example, in West and Central Africa, coverage has stagnated at 70 per cent for DTP3- which is the lowest among all regions- at 70 per cent for polio, and at 71 per cent for measles. This has led to repeated outbreaks of measles and polio in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Eastern and Southern Africa, the number of unvaccinated children has remained nearly the same for the last decade, at around 2 million.

PAHO has recommended that primary health care providers vaccinate against measles while taking measures to protect communities and health care workers from COVID-19.

This year's theme is "vaccines work for all", celebrating the people who develop, deliver and receive vaccines as heroes, contributing to protecting everyone, everywhere.

Millions of children are in danger of missing life-saving vaccines against measles, diphtheria and polio due to disruptions in immunisation service amid the spread of COVID-19, the UNICEF has warned. More than 20 diseases can be prevented with vaccines.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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