The World Health Organisation (WHO), along with UNICEF and Gavi Vaccine Alliance, warned on May 23 that at least 80 million children under the age of one year are at the risk of suffering from diseases like diphtheria, polio and measles. This came as the world is fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic and most countries have halted the routine vaccine efforts.
Therefore, amid fears of children being vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, the agencies have jointly called for global effort to safely deliver the immunization and resume vaccination campaigns. The announcement comes before the Global Vaccine Summit scheduled to take place on June 4 where world leaders are expected to unite and maintain the immunization programmes against the vaccine-preventable diseases. The summit will also focus on coming up with strategies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in low-income countries.
The statement said, “According to data collected by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Gavi and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, provision of routine immunization services is substantially hindered in at least 68 countries and is likely to affect approximately 80 million children under the age of 1 living in these countries.”
WHO, @gavi & @UNICEF issue joint warning today that at least 80M children under 1 are at risk of diseases like diphtheria, measles & polio, as #COVID19 disrupts routine vaccination efforts.👉 https://t.co/Q5L45E5N4V #HealthForAll pic.twitter.com/1XZxyy4GQc— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 22, 2020
The WHO, UNICEF and Gavi also noted that the routine immunization of children has been severely disrupted since March 2020. More than 50% of the 129 countries that are part of the programmes have cautioned of “moderate-to-severe” disruptions or a total suspension of the services especially in March and April this year.
The coronavirus outbreak, which first gripped China in late December 2019, has infected over 5.2 million people across the world. WHO chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that immunization is one of the “most powerful” tools for preventing diseases and any disruption would halt the decades-long progress made in combatting the disease.
“Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health,” said WHO chief. He added, “Disruption to immunization programmes from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.”