Maintaining routine immunization services vital during the COVID-19 pandemic – WHO and UNICEF
The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder that infectious diseases know no borders. All countries are vulnerable, regardless of income levels or the strength of their health care systems. Across the European Region, where tens of millions of people have been living in lockdown for weeks, and over 100,000 people have died, the speed and devastation of the novel coronavirus has completely upended lives. The urgent need for a COVID-19 vaccine underscores the pivotal role immunizations play in protecting lives and economies. As scientists around the world work to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus and health care capacities are stretched in responding to COVID-19, national routine immunization programmes are more critical than ever before. Governments across the Region must use every opportunity possible to protect people from the many diseases for which vaccines are already available. When routine vaccinations are missed, the risk of disease outbreaks increases. In 2018, approximately 527 000 children missed their first-dose of measles-containing vaccine in the WHO European Region. One year later in 2019, the measles virus exposed immunity gaps in Europe, infecting over 100 000 people, across all age-groups. Protecting children, adolescents and adults from vaccine-preventable diseases through vaccination is a must for the sustainability of health care systems. “We know that vulnerability to infectious diseases anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere,” said Ms. Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “It is critical that routine immunization programmes continue during this crisis, while adequately protecting health workers and individuals receiving vaccinations. Reaching the most vulnerable children who have missed routine immunizations in the past should be prioritized.” If, during these unprecedented times, local COVID-19 response measures cause temporary interruptions of routine immunization services, countries should plan to resume immunization services as quickly as possible after the situation stabilizes. Countries should be prepared to vaccinate those at higher risk and ensure everyone, including the most marginalized, will have equal access to a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. “ We can prevent further impact of COVID-19 on our healthcare systems by assuring that individuals of all ages remain vaccinated according to national schedules. I urge countries to maintain immunization service delivery and drive demand for vaccination, through the life-course even at this difficult time. Prioritizing immunization is one of my four flagship areas and central to WHO’s vision for health in the new European Programme of Work” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. WHO and UNICEF will continue to support governments’ efforts to strengthen their immunization programmes, including through strategic planning for equitable provision of immunization, strengthening vaccine-preventable disease surveillance and community engagement and education. As we step into a new future, vaccines will continue to serve as a foundation for health and wellbeing for all. It is through solidarity, joint action and tireless commitment to leaving no one behind that we can create a healthier future together. #Vaccineswork Georgia immunization UNICEF/UN0326765/Georgia
‘RM Child-Health’: safeguarding the health of refugee and migrant children in Europe
More than 1.3 million children have made their way to Europe since 2014, fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in their own countries. They include at least 225,000 children travelling alone – most of them teenage boys – as well as 500,000 children under the age of five. In 2019 alone, almost 32,000 children (8,000 of them unaccompanied or separated) reached Europe via the Mediterranean after perilous journeys from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and many parts of Africa – journeys that have threatened their lives and their health. Many have come from countries with broken health systems, travelling for months (even years) with no access to health care and facing the constant risks of violence and exploitation along the way. Many girls and boys arriving in Europe have missed out on life-saving immunization and have experienced serious distress or even mental health problems. They may be carrying the physical and emotional scars of violence, including sexual abuse. The health of infants and mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding has been put at risk by a lack of pre- and post-natal health services and of support for child nutrition. Two girls wash a pot in the common washing area of the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, on the island of Lesvos, in Greece. Two girls wash a pot in the common washing area of the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, on the island of Lesvos, in Greece. Child refugees and migrants also face an increased health risk as a result of crowded and unhygienic living conditions during their journeys and at their destinations. Even upon their arrival in Europe, refugee and migrant children and families often face continued barriers to their health care, such as cultural issues, bureaucracy, and a lack of information in their own language. Southern and South East European countries are at the heart of this challenge, struggling to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children. And now, an already serious problem is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugee checks on his son
Our goals for children
Half of all deaths among children under the age of five in the Region occur in the first month of life. 400,000 children under the age of one have not received the recommended three doses of DTP vaccine, and immunization rates are falling because of system failures and vaccine hesitancy. Less than 30 per cent of Roma children are fully immunized in parts of the Balkan countries. Only 32 per cent of babies in the Region are exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life – one of the lowest rates worldwide.
ВОЗ и ЮНИСЕФ: Продолжение оказания услуг по плановой иммунизации имеет жизненно важное значение во время пандемии COVID-19
избежать дальнейшего воздействия COVID-19 на наши системы здравоохранения, обеспечив продолжение вакцинации людей всех возрастов в соответствии с национальными графиками. Я призываю страны даже в это трудное время продолжать оказание услуг по иммунизации и стимулировать спрос на вакцинацию на протяжении всей жизни человека. Обеспечение приоритетности иммунизации является одной из моих четырех основных областей моей работы и занимает центральное место в концепции ВОЗ в отношении здоровья в новой Европейской программе работы», – заявил д-р Ханс Генри П. Клюге, директор Европейского регионального бюро ВОЗ. ВОЗ и ЮНИСЕФ будут и впредь поддерживать усилия правительств по укреплению их программ иммунизации, в том числе посредством стратегического планирования для оказания услуг по иммунизации на справедливой основе, усиления эпиднадзора за болезнями, предупреждаемыми с помощью вакцин, а также обеспечения участия и просвещения местных сообществ. В новом будущем, в которое мы сейчас вступаем, вакцины будут по-прежнему служить основой для обеспечения здоровья и благополучия для всех. Именно благодаря солидарности, совместным действиям и неустанной приверженности принципу «не оставить никого без внимания» мы сможем вместе создать более здоровое будущее. #ВакциныРаботают Georgia immunization UNICEF/UN0326765/Georgia