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UNICEF rings alarm over lack of life-saving vaccines for children
update:April 27,2020
UNITED NATIONS, April 27,2020 -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Friday warned that millions of children are in danger of missing life-saving vaccines against measles, diphtheria and polio due to disruptions in immunization services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most countries had suspended mass polio immunization campaigns and 25 countries had postponed mass measles immunization campaigns, said UNICEF in a press release, adding that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, measles, polio and other vaccines were out of reach every year for 20 million children below the age of one.
Over 13 million children below the age of one did not receive any vaccines at all in 2018, it added.
Given the current disruptions, this could create pathways to disastrous outbreaks in 2020 and beyond, warned UNICEF.
"The stakes have never been higher. As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, our life-saving work to provide children with vaccines is critical," Robin Nandy, UNICEF Principal Adviser and Chief of Immunization, was quoted as saying.
"With disruptions in immunization services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fates of millions of young lives hang in the balance," he said.
An estimated 182 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2018, or 20.3 million children a year on average, according to a UNICEF analysis. This is because the global coverage of the first dose of measles stands only at 86 percent, well below the 95 percent needed to prevent measles outbreaks, said the press release.
Widening pockets of unvaccinated children led to alarming measles outbreaks in 2019, including in high-income countries like the United States, Britain and France.
Among low-income countries, the gaps in measles coverage before COVID-19 were already alarming, warned UNICEF.
Between 2010 and 2018, Ethiopia had the highest number of children under 1 year of age who missed out on the first dose of measles, at nearly 10.9 million. It was followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (6.2 million), Afghanistan (3.8 million), Chad, Madagascar and Uganda with about 2.7 million each, said UNICEF.
"Children missing out now on vaccines must not go their whole lives without protection from disease," said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. "The legacy of COVID-19 must not include the global resurgence of other killers like measles and polio."
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