COVID Impact: Delays and Disruption In Vaccination Routine puts Millions of Children At Risk

By      08-Sep 2020       Reading Time: 4 Mins

COVID Impact: Delays and Disruption In Vaccination Routine puts Millions of Children At Risk

Immunization is one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health and now; with Covid-19 the years of progress made against vaccine-preventable diseases is under threat. 

Ever since the establishment of Expanded Programs on Immunization(EPI) in the 1970s, now is the time that the services are disrupted on a global scale. March and April’2020, witnessed a total or a moderate-to-severe suspension of the vaccination program in more than half of the 129 countries.

WHO, UNICEF and Gavi warn that at least 80 million children under the age of one, are at a startling risk of developing diseases like Polio, Measles and Diphtheria. 

  • In late March, following the guidelines of WHO, many countries had temporarily disabled the preventive mass vaccination campaigns against conditions like cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, tetanus, measles, polio, rotavirus, HPV and meningitis. This was done to maintain the physical distancing protocol, which otherwise would have been a cause for the transmission of Corona Virus infection.
  • As on date WHO, after monitoring the situation has advised the countries to make specific risk assessment, keeping in mind the health system capacity, the local dynamics of corona transmission and perhaps determine how and when to resume the vaccination campaigns.
  • It is though evident that the reason for the delay or disruption in vaccination, is lack of information, fear of getting infected by the Covid-19, reluctance to leave home because of the same, unavailability of the health care workers and the lack of protective equipment.
  • UNICEF has appealed to the governments, the airline industry, the private sector to make freight space available at an affordable cost for these life-saving vaccines.
  • Measles, suspended in 27 countries and polio, suspended in 38 countries are the worst hit vaccination campaigns.
  • Measles was on the rise even before the pandemic hit the world and now the situation is even more concerning. In fact in January this year, Central African Republic (CAR) declared a nationwide measles epidemic, with more than 26,000 cases being reported in a tenure of just seven months.
  • In early May, UNICEF cited a 70-80% reduction in planned vaccine shipments, due to the lack in transportation and exorbitant costs.
  • It’s note-worthy that, despite the lockdown, some countries like Uganda and Lao PDR[which rolled out HPV vaccine and it reached out to 70% of the population], have found an innovative way to continue the immunization.
  • Gavi is working on raising an amount of $7.4 billion to provide for the vaccines of 300 million children over the next five years, in 68 lower-income countries against deadly diseases from 2021-25.

Over to you:

The need to put in joint concentrated efforts to bring vaccines back on track is substantial. Efforts to track the unvaccinated children, bridging the gap in vaccine delivery, creative methods to keep up with the work of immunization and steps to not hinder the affordability and accessibility of vaccines, is the need of the hour.

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