Stalled Vaccine Programmes ‘Putting Children’s Lives At Risk’

The World Health Organization advised many countries to suspend vaccinations to help slow the spread of coronavirus. But now it is one of several groups expressing concern about the long-term impact.

Experts have warned that millions of children could die from preventable disease because of severe disruptions to vaccination programmes caused by coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 68 countries have been affected – with some stopping vaccination campaigns completely.

The World Health Organization advised many countries to suspend vaccinations to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

But now it is one of several groups expressing concern about the long-term impact.

United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance are also worried thousands of children every day could die needlessly.

There are a number of reasons vaccination services have been so badly disrupted, including: parents’ fear of catching Covid-19 if they leave the house, health workers being diverted to deal with the pandemic, problems getting vaccine supplies to clinics

“Measles is on the rise, diphtheria, cholera,” United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) executive director Henrietta Fore says.

“So this is going to be a real problem.”

“As a world, we had conquered many of these preventable diseases for children.”

Now, there are grave concerns these gains could be “wiped away”.

In a usually packed clinic in Niger’s capital, Naimey, the waiting room is quiet.

There have been almost 1,000 Covid-19 cases reported in the country.

But polio, which can cause paralysis or even death, is also making a comeback – four new cases have been reported since February.

Zeinabou Tahirou sits in a pink headscarf and a blue face mask, cradling her baby girl, Fadila.

“I was so scared to come here, because of the coronavirus,” she says.

“But health workers have told me how important these immunisations are, and also what I need to do to stay safe – like washing my hands all the time.”

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