Measles and Polio Vaccination Programs Need Support
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an urgent call to action to avert major measles and polio epidemics around the globe.
The WHO stated on November 5, 2020, ‘COVID-19 continues to disrupt immunization services, leaving millions of vulnerable children at heightened risk of preventable childhood diseases.’
The WHO and UNICEF estimate that $655 million ($400 million for polio and $255 million for measles) in funding is needed to address dangerous immunity gaps in non-Gavi eligible countries and target age groups.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on health services and in particular immunization services, worldwide,” commented Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a press statement.
“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.”
In recent years, there has been a global resurgence of measles with ongoing outbreaks in all parts of the world. During 2019, measles climbed to the highest number of new infections in more than two decades.
In the USA, a nationwide measles outbreak started in New York City from international travelers who were under-immunized for the measles virus.
The M-M-R-II vaccine remains a highly recommended vaccine in the USA.
Separately, poliovirus transmission is accelerating in various African and Middleast countries during 2020. In response, the WHO extended its Polio Alert.
‘Failure to eradicate polio now would lead to the global resurgence of the disease, resulting in as many as 200,000 new cases annually, within 10 years,’ added the WHO press statement.
The U.S. CDC recommends that before traveling to these countries, adults who completed their routine polio vaccine series as children should receive a single, lifetime adult booster dose of an inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) booster dose, which has been the only polio vaccine offered in the USA since 2000.
Because of the generous financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and previous access to funding for outbreak response, preventive catch-up vaccinations for children who were missed due to COVID-19 disruptions in Gavi-eligible countries are underway.
‘However, significant financing gaps remain in middle-income countries that are not Gavi-eligible. This new call for emergency action will go to support those middle-income countries that are not eligible for support from Gavi,’ concluded the WHO’s comments.
To know more about UNICEF’s work on immunization, visit UNICEF.
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