The World Health Organization and UNICEF said on Wednesday that they anticipate an "alarming decline" in the number of children receiving potentially life-saving vaccines due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The United Nations organizations warned of the first drop in 28 years for vaccines against diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DPT3) — a marker for immunization coverage — based on preliminary data from the first four months of 2020.
The report also said that at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns across the world have either been canceled or are at risk of being canceled because of the pandemic. It also cited a survey that said three-quarters of 82 responding countries reported disruptions because of the virus.
"Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "But the pandemic has put those gains at risk. The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself."
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that vaccination programs must resume immediately to prevent a potential resurgence in disease.
"COVID-19 has made previously routine vaccination a daunting challenge," Fore said. "We must prevent a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and urgently resume vaccination programs before children's lives are threatened by other diseases. We cannot trade one health crisis for another."