COVID 19 is disrupting life-saving immunization services around the world, putting millions of children – in rich and poor countries alike – at risk of diseases like diphtheria, measles and polio.
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Provision of routine immunization services is substantially hindered in at least 68 countries and is likely to affect approximately 80 million children under the age of 1 living in these countries.
Since March 2020, routine childhood immunization services have been disrupted on a global scale that may be unprecedented since the inception of expanded programs on immunization (EPI) in the 1970s.
The reasons for disrupted services vary. Some parents are reluctant to leave home because of restrictions on movement, lack of information or because they fear infection with the COVID-19 virus. And many health workers are unavailable because of restrictions on travel, or redeployment to COVID response duties, as well as a lack of protective equipment. Transport delays of vaccines are also exacerbating the situation.
Despite the challenges, several countries are making special efforts to continue immunization. Uganda is ensuring that immunization services continue along with other essential health services, even funding transportation to ensure outreach activities. And in Lao PDR, despite a national lockdown imposed in March, routine immunization in fixed sites continued with physical distancing measures in place.