United Nations: Immunization programs disrupted, exposing 80 million children to fatal dangers

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The World Health Organization and UNICEF announced Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic is endangering the lives of tens of millions of children due to the disruption of routine vaccination programs in dozens of countries.

The United Nations agencies have joined forces with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), to warn of this problem that may pave the way for the return of deadly diseases, although prevention is available.

“Covid-19 threatens to undermine the immunization services that protect the lives of children around the world,” Tidros Adhanom Gebresos, WHO Director-General said at a joint virtual press conference.

“This puts tens of millions of children in rich and poor countries at risk of deadly diseases such as diphtheria, measles and pneumonia.”

He noted that while the world is searching for a safe and effective vaccine against the emerging coronavirus, vaccines are already available to prevent other diseases that need to be distributed.

“Initial analyzes indicate that routine immunization services are largely hindered in at least 68 countries, and this is likely to affect some 80 million children under one year of age in these countries,” Tedros said.

“Any suspension of childhood vaccination services poses a major threat to life,” he added.

Meanwhile, experts said it is necessary to preserve the structure of routine vaccination programs in poor countries, because these networks will eventually be the same ones used to distribute Covid-19 vaccine.

Innovative solutions

UNICEF announced that measles vaccination campaigns have been suspended in 27 countries and polio campaigns in 38 countries.

Countries have been forced to suspend campaigns due to the need to maintain social and physical spacing, while some health centers have been overshadowed by efforts to respond to the Corona virus, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Four.

Meanwhile, health workers have been redeployed to treat Covid-19 patients and some parents have been unable to move their children to vaccination sites due to movement restrictions.

Fur said countries need to intensify their efforts to track down unvaccinated children and find innovative solutions as Laos has done by vaccinating children in supermarkets.

Gavi President Seth Berkeley said that countries should do everything they can to continue vaccination campaigns.

“If we neglect the supply chains and the immunization infrastructure that keep these programs running, we also risk compromising our ability to deploy Covid-19 vaccines, which represent our best opportunity to defeat this epidemic,” he added.

He appealed to countries to contribute generously at the June 4 Global Vaccine Donors Summit, hosted by London.

The death toll from the emerging coronavirus around the world has risen to at least 335,538 people since the epidemic appeared in China in December, according to an AFP count at 19:00 GMT Friday, according to official sources.

“While the world has exceeded five million registered cases of Covid-19, we are aware of the importance of building national unity and global solidarity to learn from each other and eradicate the virus everywhere,” Tedros said.




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