Sat | Jun 12, 2021

Immunisation services begin slow recovery from COVID-19 disruptions - WHO

Published:Wednesday | April 28, 2021 | 12:19 AM

WHILE IMMUNISATION services have started to recover from disruptions caused by COVID-19, millions of children remain vulnerable to deadly diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance warned, highlighting the urgent need for a renewed global commitment to improve vaccination access and uptake.

This week is being celebrated as World Immunisation Week.

“Vaccines will help us end the COVID-19 pandemic, but only if we ensure fair access for all countries, and build strong systems to deliver them,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general. “And if we’re to avoid multiple outbreaks of life-threatening diseases, like measles, yellow fever and diphtheria, we must ensure routine vaccination services are protected in every country in the world.”

A WHO survey has found that, despite progress when compared to the situation in 2020, more than one-third of respondent countries (37 per cent) still report experiencing disruptions to their routine immunisation services.

Mass immunisation campaigns are also disrupted. According to new data, 60 of these life-saving campaigns are currently postponed in 50 countries, putting around 228 million people - mostly children - at risk for diseases such as measles, yellow fever and polio. Over half of the 50 affected countries are in Africa, highlighting protracted inequities in people’s access to critical immunisation services.

IMPACTED CAMPAIGNS

Campaigns to immunise against measles, which is one of the most contagious diseases and can result in large outbreaks wherever people are unvaccinated, are the most impacted. Measles campaigns account for 23 of the postponed campaigns, affecting an estimated 140 million people. Many have now been delayed for over a year.

“Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were beginning to lose ground in the fight against preventable child illness, with 20 million children already missing out on critical vaccinations,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “The pandemic has made a bad situation worse, causing millions more children to go unimmunised. Now that vaccines are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we must sustain this energy to help every child catch up on their measles, polio and other vaccines. We have no time to waste. Lost ground means lost lives.”