The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF on Wednesday warned of widespread disruptions to global immunization programs for children due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The likelihood that a child born today will be fully vaccinated with all the globally recommended vaccines by the time she reaches the age of 5 is less than 20 percent,” according to a UNICEF news release.
These disruptions threaten to interrupt progress made in reaching more kids with a wider range of vaccines, officials say.
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Three quarters of 82 countries surveyed in May reported disrupted vaccination campaigns due to coronavirus, according to a study carried out by UNICEF, WHO and Gavi. (iStock)
About 75 percent of 82 countries surveyed in May reported disrupted vaccination campaigns due to coronavirus, according to the study carried out by UNICEF, WHO and Gavi, a public-private partnership started by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that buys vaccines for about 60 percent of the world’s children.
The disruptions in immunization services are largely due to the low supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, travel restrictions and low availability of health workers as focus shifted to COVID-19 response.
Officials said, due to the pandemic, at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns faced a risk of cancellation, “which could result in further outbreaks in 2020 and beyond.”
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Countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Haiti and Venezuela are facing “moderate to severe COVID-19-related disruptions,” where “immunization coverage plummeted by at least 14 percentage points since 2010.”
“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, calling on countries to ensure programs continue.
“We cannot trade one health crisis for another,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.