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Polio, measles, other diseases set to surge as COVID-19 forces suspension of vaccination campaigns

Date: 8.4.2020 

Global Polio Eradication Initiative on 24 March recommended suspending polio vaccination campaigns until the second half of the year. Two days later Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) issued a broader call, recommending that all preventive mass vaccination campaigns for other diseases be postponed.

Kredit: UNICEF Philippines/2019/Shehzad Noorani.But experts say the fallout from the wrenching decision will be huge and may last long after the pandemic subsides. It comes on top of the damage COVID-19 will do to the fragile health systems in many countries.

Mass vaccination campaigns against a host of diseases are already grinding to a halt in many countries. For many children, these campaigns are the only chance to get vaccines. Some 13.5 million have already missed out on vaccinations for polio, measles, human papillomavirus, yellow fever, cholera, and meningitis since the suspensions began, Berkley says. “I tell you those numbers will be much larger than what we see today.”

In the case of polio, more children will be paralyzed in countries where polio is still circulating, and the virus will likely spread to countries that are now polio-free. The decision couldn’t come at a worse time. The polio eradication effort is already reeling from setbacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the wild virus is surging, and in Africa, where outbreaks caused by the live polio vaccine itself are spiraling out of control. The program will reassess the decision every 2 weeks.




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