The focus right now is developing a COVID-19 vaccine to address the surging number of cases and deaths. Medical researchers and scientists are racing against time, aware that a working cure needs to come out fast to save lives. But then again, it raises another question. That is on other illnesses and diseases that need to be addressed through vaccines, particularly kids.
The World Health Organization (WHO) raised the concern, issuing a reminder that kids dealing with other kinds of illnesses may be affected. Vaccine shortages are already starting to become a problem and it may come to a point where some kids may eventually die.
According to CNBC, at least 21 countries are already reporting shortages in other vaccines due to travel restrictions. Immunization has been postponed in some countries while healthcare services to address other diseases such as malaria have been hampered. The same holds true for children dealing with polio. Given the scenario, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference that the tragic reality is that children will suffer and die as a result.
That said, Ghebreyesus is now issuing a call to other member countries to help in ensuring that vaccine programs stay funded. The numbers are staggering but a must if more lives are to be saved. He bared that the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization need at least $7.4 billion to immunize 300 million children with 18 vaccines by 2025.
“When vaccination coverage goes down, more outbreaks will occur,” he added. “We are continuing to support these countries with technical assistance through our regional and country offices and with supplies through solidarity flights.”
Ghebreyesus admitted that the fight against COVID-19 is far from over. Some regions have shown a decline but spiking in other parts of the world. There are also cases where the disease reignites. It is a given that the pandemic is far from being under control and the basic guidelines still need to be followed religiously.
“Make no mistake, we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time,” he said.
Before the COVID-19 surged, there were already other diseases that plagued children. Aside from malaria and polio, measles is another growing problem in select regions. UNICEF warned that the unavailability of other vaccines could result in a pathway to other disastrous outbreaks this year if not addressed.
“The stakes have never been higher. As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, our life-saving work to provide children with vaccines is critical,” Robin Nandy, UNICEF Principal Adviser and Chief of Immunization, said.