With massive disruptions to global immunisation programmes from the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts now fear that much of the developing world will not be able to get a vaccine for the virus even once it is ready. According to the UN agencies and the GAVI vaccine alliance, nearly 80 million children in at least 68 countries may be at risk of diphtheria, measles and polio because routine immunisation efforts have been thrown into disarray by travel restrictions, delivery delays and parents’ fear of leaving home.
As per the press note released by World Health Organisation (WHO), GAVI chief executive Seth Berkley said that much of the world may also be unprepared to administer vaccines against COVID-19 being delayed by more than 100 projects worldwide. Berkley pointed out that if the world neglects the supply chains and immunisation infrastructure that keeps these programmers running, then the risk of harming the ability to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine is also high.
According to reports, while London will be hosting a virtual Global Vaccines Summit on June 4 where GAVI is seeking $7.4 billion for 2021-2025 to immunise an additional 300 million children, fragile health care systems are coming under strain from COVID-19. Meanwhile, the WHO also noted that South America has become a new epicentre of the disease. While in parts of Africa cases are escalating, Brazil’s count of people stricken is now at over 300,000 with over 20,000 deaths.
‘Immunization is the most powerful’
With more than five million people infected across the world, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, noted that immunization is one of the “most powerful” tools for preventing diseases and any disruption would halt the decades-long progress made in combatting the disease.
Tedros said, “Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health. Disruption to immunization programmes from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles”.