The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on April 28 warned that South Asian countries could face a greater health crisis if children across the region are not given the much-needed vaccine. The vaccination programs in many countries have come to a halt due to coronavirus outbreak and the United Nations body expressed concern about the sudden disruptions. UNICEF said that around 4.5 million unimmunised children in South Asia are at risk of contracting diseases if the life-saving vaccination programs are not resumed.
South Asia has two of the world's last polio-affected countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to UNICEF, the coronavirus outbreak has halted the national polio vaccination campaigns in Pakistan and Afghanistan, while Bangladesh and Nepal have postponed their national measles and rubella campaigns. UNICEF said that many health facilities across South Asia that were responsible for providing vaccination to children have been shut and outreach programs have been suspended until further notice.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a virtual press conference on April 27 where he said that the global health agency is deeply concerned about the impact the pandemic will have on other health services, especially for children. Tedros said that children may be at low risk of contracting coronavirus, but they are facing a relatively higher risk of contracting other diseases due to suspension of vaccination programs in many countries.
"Every year, more than 116 million infants are vaccinated, or 86% of all children born globally. But, there are still more than 13 million children around the world who miss out on vaccination. We know that the number will increase because of COVID-19. Already, polio vaccination campaigns have been put on hold, and in some countries, routine immunization services are being scaled back or shut down," Tedros said in the press conference.
(Image Credit: AP)