The Chief of the World Health Organisation has warned that COVID-19 is putting children at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases as vaccination numbers drop.
The global health crisis is resulting in millions of people falling behind with their vaccinations for vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that at least 21 countries are reporting vaccine shortages as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. This, he said, will result in the deaths of many children from VPDs.
“Although COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll, WHO is deeply concerned about the impact the pandemic will have on other services, especially for children. Children may be at relatively low risk from severe disease and death from COVID-19 but can be high risk from other diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.”
He added; “This week is World Immunisation Week. Immunisation is one of the greatest success stories in the history of global health. More than 20 diseases can be prevented with vaccines. Every year, more than 116 million infants are vaccinated but there are still more than 13 million children around the world who miss out on vaccination. We know that this number will increase because of COVID-19.”
Polio vaccination campaigns have been put on hold in some countries and in others, routine immunisation services have been scaled back or shut down. Gherebreyseus said that parents and caregivers are avoiding taking their children to be vaccinated because of concerns about the virus. This combined with myths and misinformation about vaccines is adding fuel to the fire, putting the vulnerable at risk.
Gherebreyseus said “the pandemic is far from over” and that in all regions, cases and deaths are underreported because of low testing capacity. He called for countries to find, isolate, test, and treat
In 2019, Albania lost its ‘measles free‘ status due to a drop in immunization rates. Measles kills some 150,000 people every year, mainly children, and can cause blindness, deafness, encephalitis, pneumonia, and SSPE which develops 7-10 years after the measles infection and is universally fatal.