The panic triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of vaccination campaigns against measles, yellow fever and polio. And with the desertion of vaccination centers, there are fears of a resurgence of other diseases such as Polio, measles and dengue fever. Some groups are sounding the alarm at the unprecedented health crisis looming over poor countries.
“The choice between plague and cholera,” is how Seth Barkley, head of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), describes the dilemma the organization faces: On 24 March, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) recommended stopping all polio immunization campaigns in Africa to prevent the spread of the SARS CoV-2 virus. It recognizes that this will lead to an increase in the number of paralyzed children in countries where otherwise polio has already been eradicated. Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the virus is still present, could be the first victims.
Yellow fever, diphtheria and measles: all vaccination campaigns cancelled
And unfortunately, polio is not the only thing that’s involved. On 26 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a “temporary halt” to vaccination against all other diseases, including yellow fever, diphtheria and measles. The WHO believes that the social distance required to contain COVID-19 is incompatible with the distribution of the vaccine in the villages. Some 13.5 million children are already at risk since they stopped getting vaccinations for polio, measles, cholera and meningitis.