WHO concerned about COVID-19 impact on immunisation programmes

Observes World Immunisation Week

DPI, Guyana, Monday, April 27, 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is concerned about the impact the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will have on other health services, especially for children.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his media briefing today, noted that while children may be at relatively low risk from severe disease and death from COVID-19, they may be at high risk from other diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.

As World Immunisation Week (24 – 30 April 2020) is being observed, Dr. Ghebreyesus stressed that vaccination is one of the greatest success stories in the history of global health.


WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

He highlighted that more than 20 diseases can be prevented with vaccines. And every year over 116 million infants are vaccinated – approximately 86 percent of all children born globally.

However, there are still over 13 million children around the world who miss out on vaccination. These numbers will increase because of COVID-19, Dr. Ghebreyesus stated.

It was pointed out that already, polio vaccination campaigns have been put on hold, and in some countries, routine immunisation services are being scaled back or shut down. Even where services are operating, some parents and caregivers are avoiding taking their children to be vaccinated because of concerns about COVID-19.

The Solidarity Trial launched by the WHO will determine which therapeutics are the safest and most effective for treating COVID-19 patients however, eventually, there needs to be a vaccine to control the virus, Dr. Ghebreyesus noted.

“Developing a COVID-19 vaccine has been accelerated because of previous work WHO and partners have done over several years on vaccines for other coronaviruses including SARS and MERS.”

“But the pandemic is far from over,” he said, noting that WHO continues to be concerned about the increasing trends in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries.

These nations continue to receive technical support and other assistance, and supplies through Solidarity Flights.

In the past week, WHO delivered supplies to more than 40 countries in Africa, and more are planned.

Globally, the organisation has shipped millions of items of personal protective equipment to 105 countries, and lab supplies to more than 127 countries. Millions more will be shipped in the weeks ahead.

Later this week WHO will launch its second Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, with an estimate of the resources needed for the next stage of the global response.

More than 280,000 individuals, corporations and foundations contributed to the Solidarity Response Fund, which has now generated more than US$200 million.

The Director-General reminded that the launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator on April 24, was a powerful demonstration solidarity between different nations.

“If we’re not united the virus will exploit the gaps between us and create havoc. Lives will be lost. We can only defeat this virus through unity at the national level and solidarity at the global level.”