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Covid halts polio, measles vaccination, WHO seeks action

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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

 Rohit Shishodia
The Unicef and the World Health Organization (WHO) have called for urgent action to avert polio and measles epidemics as lives of millions of children are at risk of getting the diseases after Covid pandemic has disrupted the immunization program to prevent these diseases worldwide.

“As Covid-19 disrupts immunizations, urgent action needed to protect most vulnerable children from deadly and debilitating diseases,” said Unicef and WHO in a statement.

It is estimated that US$655 million are required to address dangerous immunity gaps in non-Gavi eligible countries and target age groups.    

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, DG, WHO, said, “Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on health services and in particular immunization services, worldwide.

Dr Ghebreyesus, added, “But unlike with Covid, we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles. What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action. If we do that, children’s lives will be saved.”

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, Unicef, said, “We cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against other diseases.”

“Addressing the global Covid-19 pandemic is critical. However, other deadly diseases also threaten the lives of millions of children in some of the poorest areas of the world. That is why today we are urgently calling for global action from country leaders, donors and partners. We need additional financial resources to safely resume vaccination campaigns and prioritize immunization systems that are critical to protect children and avert other epidemics besides Covid,” she stated.

WHO has informed that in recent years, there has been a global resurgence of measles with ongoing outbreaks in all parts of the world.  

The UN agency pointed out that coverage gaps have been further exacerbated in 2020 by Covid-19. In 2019, measles climbed to the highest number of new infections in more than two decades. Annual measles mortality data for 2019 to be released next week will show the continued negative toll that sustained outbreaks are having in many countries around the world.

The WHO has said that at the same time, poliovirus transmission is expected to increase in Pakistan and Afghanistan and in many under-immunized areas of Africa. Failure to eradicate polio now would lead to global resurgence of the disease, resulting in as many as 200,000 new cases annually, within 10 years. 


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