The lockdown measures that countries have imposed to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus are creating “unprecedented logistical constraints” in vaccine shipments, risking leaving millions of children without vaccination, UNICEF has warned.
The UN children’s agency stressed that several countries are already running out of vaccine supplies for diseases like measles, as the Covid-19 emergency has grounded commercial and charter flights flights that sustain the global vaccine supply.
Marixie Mercado, UNICEF’s spokesperson warned that 26 countries, mainly in Africa but also in Asia were particularly at risk, as “the cost of securing space on the few flights available has soared, with freight rates now up to 200 percent above normal prices.”
She called on the governments and the private sector to “free up freight space at affordable cost” for those vaccines that could save millions of children’ lives, as “countries with limited resources will struggle to pay these higher prices, leaving children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Mercado also highlighted that the extended shipment delays could also risk manufacturers’, who need to store the excess vaccine stock and may be required to postpone future production, in case their warehouse storage is exceeded.
In April, UNICEF warned that measles outbreaks might occur as a result of missing vaccination campaigns due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, putting at risk around 117 million children worldwide.
“Disruptions in routine immunisation, particularly in countries with weak health systems, could lead to disastrous outbreaks in 2020 and well beyond,” said Mercado.
On Sunday, UNICEF said in a statement that due to the suspension of vaccination campaigns, “one in five children or 10 million children under the age of 5 risk missing their polio vaccination,” and that “nearly 4.5 million children under the age of 15 risk missing their measles vaccination.”