WHO issues urgent call for measles, polio vaccinations amidst COVID-19 to prevent outbreaks  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- Vaccination programmes for various diseases are on hold due to COVID-19 pandemic
- UNICEF and WHO have warned that missed vaccinations can lead to outbreak of polio and measles
- The agencies estimate that about 655 million dollars will be required to fill the immunization gaps caused due to COVID-19
New Delhi: The coronavirus pandemic led to the disruption of normal life. From stay at home restrictions to isolation, the pandemic changed the way we lived and viewed life. The coronavirus outbreak also had a considerable impact on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and routine vaccinations. According to a report in March, this year, the COVID-19 pandemic had caused many parents to miss their children’s vaccinations.
Recent reports, however, has raised great concerns over COVID-19 impact on vaccinations. According to a press release by the UNICEF, UN Children’s Fund, and the WHO, millions of children are at heightened risk of polio and measles as COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted vital immunization programmes. Both these diseases are dangerous but preventable.
According to tot he UN agencies, immunization rates in some countries have fallen by as much as 50 per cent, as people are unable to access health services because of lockdown, transport disruptions, and due to fear of contracting COVID-19.
According to the release, polio and measles vaccination camps, designed to fill gaps in essential services, also had to be paused to prevent possible infection of health workers and communities.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on health services and in particular immunisation services, worldwide,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
“But unlike with COVID, we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles. What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action,” he added.
“If we do that, children’s lives will be saved.”
Estimated 655 million dollars needed to avert polio, measles outbreak: WHO
According to the UNICEF and the WHO, an estimated 655 million dollars will be needed to fill the dangerous immunity gaps in middle-income countries, which are not eligible for Gavi assistance. Around 400 million dollars will be needed to support the polio outbreak response, over 2020-21, ad about 255 million dollars will be needed to prepare and prevent measles outbreak over the next three years. The agencies further said that if left unchecked, the situation can pose an “increasingly high risk of explosive outbreaks and potentially further international spread of both polio and measles.”
Officials also said that dealing with the outbreak of one disease, should not impact the fight against others, and not lead to other disease outbreaks.
“Addressing global COVID-19 pandemic is critical. However, other deadly diseases also threaten the lives of millions of children in some of the poorest areas of the world. That is why today we are urgently calling for global action from country leaders, donors and partners,” she said.
“We need additional financial resources to safely resume vaccination campaigns and prioritize immunisation systems that are critical to protect children and avert other epidemics besides COVID-19.”
The agencies have also called countries to respond urgently to emerging disease outbreaks, prioritise immunisations. They suggested the use of national budgets for the same.