Millions of children are in danger of losing the life-saving vaccine against measles, diphtheria and polio due to disruption in immunization services amid the spread of COVID-19, UNICEF has warned.
Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, measles, polio and other vaccines were out of reach for 20 million children under one year of age, the UN Children’s Fund said Saturday. Given the current disruption, UNICEF warns that this could create a path to a catastrophic outbreak in 2020 and far beyond that. More than 13 million children did not receive the vaccine at all in 2018, he said.
Making its appeal at the start of the 2020 edition of World Immunization Week, UNICEF said that millions of children are in danger of losing life-saving vaccines against measles, diphtheria and polio because of disruptions in immunization services as the world rushes to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“The stakes have never been higher. Because COVID-19 continues to spread globally, our life-saving work to provide children with vaccines is very important, “said UNICEF Chief Adviser and Immunization Chief Robin Nandy.
With disruptions in immunization services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he stressed that the fate of millions of young people “hangs in balance.” UNICEF estimates that 182 million children lose the first dose of measles vaccine between 2010 and 2018, or an average of 20.3 million children per year.
This is because the global coverage of the first dose of measles is only 86 percent, far below the 95 percent needed to prevent measles outbreaks. The widening of the pockets of unvaccinated children has caused alarming measles outbreaks in 2019, including in high-income countries such as the US, UK and France. Meanwhile, among low-income countries, the gap in coverage of measles before COVID-19 is already worrying.
In addition to measles, the immunization gap is already quite dire, according to a new regional profile developed by UNICEF.
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