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WHO, UNICEF warn against drop in vaccinations due to COVID-19 outbreak

WHO, UNICEF warn against drop in vaccinations due to COVID-19 outbreak

Switzerland

<p><strong>Levels of childhood immunisations against dangerous diseases such as measles, tetanus and diphtheria have dropped alarmingly during the <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 pandemic, putting millions of children at risk, United Nations agencies said on Wednesday.</strong></p> <p>“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunisations could be far greater than <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 itself,” World Health Organization (<span class="caps">WHO</span>) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a joint report with <span class="caps">UNICEF</span>.</p> <p>Three-quarters of the 82 countries that responded to a survey for the report said they had suffered coronavirus-related disruptions to their immunisation programmes as of May 2020.</p> <p>Most problems were linked to a lack of sufficient personal protection equipment (<span class="caps">PPE</span>) for health workers, travel restrictions, and low health worker staffing levels – all of which led to immunisation services being curbed or shut down.</p> <p>At least 30 measles vaccination campaigns have been or are at risk of being cancelled, threatening new outbreaks of the contagious viral disease this year and beyond, the report said.</p> <p>Measles outbreaks were already on the rise, infecting nearly 10 million people in 2018 and killing 140,000 of them – mostly children, according to <span class="caps">WHO</span> data.</p> <p>For diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, preliminary data for the first four months of 2020 “points to a substantial drop” in the number of children getting all three doses of the <span class="caps">DTP</span> vaccine that protects against them, the report said – the first time in 28 years that the world could see a fall in coverage for this routine childhood immunisation.</p> <p>Data for 2019 showed that nearly 14 million children worldwide missed out on life-saving vaccines. Most of these children live in Africa and are likely to lack access to other health services, the report said.</p> <p>It said progress on immunisation was already stalling before the new coronavirus emerged and spread around the world, but the pandemic made a bad situation worse. </p> <p><strong><em>Agencies</em></strong></p>

The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunisations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself.

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