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Disruption of childhood vaccination in South Asia poses urgent health threat: UNICEF
update:April 29,2020
UNITED NATIONS, April 29,2020 -- South Asia could face another health emergency if children across the region do not receive their life-saving vaccine shots, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned Tuesday.
Almost a quarter of the world's unimmunized or partially immunized children - about 4.5 million children - live in South Asia. Almost all of them, or 97 percent, live in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, said UNICEF.
With lockdowns in place as a part of the COVID-19 response, routine immunizations have been "severely disrupted," and parents are increasingly reluctant to take their children to health centers for routine jabs. Sporadic outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles and diphtheria, have already been seen in parts of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, it said.
"Vaccine stocks are running dangerously low in some countries of the region as supply chains have been disrupted with travel bans and cancelled flights. The manufacturing of the vaccines has also been disrupted, creating additional shortages," said Paul Rutter, regional health advisor for UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia.
Many of the health facilities throughout the region, where millions of children are normally vaccinated, have been closed and outreach sessions have been suspended, adding to the challenge, said UNICEF.
UNICEF strongly recommended that, where immunization campaigns are suspended, governments begin rigorous planning now to intensify immunization activities once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. 
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