The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are calling for a renewed push for vaccinations, as the numbers of vaccinations fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the non-profits say child vaccination rates plateaued at 85 percent in the decade prior to the outbreak, with an estimate that at least 14 million infants were not vaccinated each of those years.
“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
But the pandemic has slowed production of the vital preventative vaccines, and stay-at-home orders, economic hardships and other obstacles have hindered access to doctor’s offices and clinics.
For example, new data released by the WHO indicates the first four months of 2020 saw a significant drop in in children completing the recommended number of vaccination doses against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3). Such a decline would be the first in nearly three decades, the WHO said.
In a poll conducted in June by the WHO, UNICEF and Garvi, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, three-quarters of 82 countries that responded reported COVID-19-related disruptions in their immunization services.
A majority of the countries reporting disruptions were located in Africa, the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean, the data shows.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore urged governments to continue to support their vaccination programs, even as scientists race to discover a treatment and vaccine for COVID-19.
“We must prevent a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and urgently resume vaccination programs before children’s lives are threatened by other diseases. We cannot trade one health crisis for another,” she said.