COVID-19 is disrupting life-saving immunisation services globally, warns WHO, UNICEF and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.
In rich and lower-income countries alike there has been temporary but justified suspension of mass vaccination campaigns such as cholera, measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever, due to the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
According to data, the provision of routine immunisation services is substantially hindered in at least 68 countries and is likely to affect approximately 80 million children under the age of one year in these countries. More than half of 129 countries where data is available, reported moderate-to-severe disruptions, or a total suspension of vaccination services during March-April 2020. This threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases.
The reasons behind these disruptions include reluctance to leave home due to movement restrictions, fear of infection with COVID-19, lack of information, unavailability of health workers due to redeployment, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Transport delays are also exacerbating the situation. UNICEF is appealing to governments, the private sector and airlines to free up freight space at an affordable cost.
“We cannot let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.