COVID-19 disrupts vaccination efforts, putting 80 million kids at risk
At least 80 million children aged younger than 1 year could miss routine vaccinations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO and other groups warned today.
Data collected by WHO, UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance indicate that routine vaccinations are stalled in at least 68 countries because of the pandemic, according to a news release.
The groups announced they will meet June 4 for the Global Vaccine Summit, with a goal to raise at least $7.4 billion for Gavi to be used to protect 300 million children in these 68 lower income countries through 2025. According to the release, the funding also will support mass vaccination campaigns and the rebuilding of health systems to help address damage done by the pandemic.
“Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said in the release. “Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.”
According to the release, as of March, routine childhood immunization services decreased in 53% of the 129 countries for which data were available.
Recently, the Global polio Eradication Initiative recommended that polio vaccination campaigns be postponed until the second half of the year and that countries responding to outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio suspend those efforts until June. In the United States, data showed a sharp decrease in DTaP, MMR and HPV vaccinations from February to April.
The release notes several reasons for disrupted vaccine services globally, including a reluctance to leave the house, lack of information or fear of spreading the novel coronavirus, and the unavailability of health care workers because of travel restrictions, deployment to COVID-19 responses or a lack of personal protective equipment.
According to the release, dozens of countries have postponed vaccination campaigns against polio, meningitis, yellow fever, typhoid, cholera, tetanus and measles, mumps and rubella.
“We cannot let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore, MSc, said in the release. “We have effective vaccines against measles, polio and cholera. 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.”