Immunization services begin slow recovery from COVID-19 disruptions, though millions of children remain at risk from deadly diseases – WHO, UNICEF, Gavi

Health – Immunization

Immunization services begin slow recovery from COVID-19 disruptions, though millions of children remain at risk from deadly diseases – WHO, UNICEF, Gavi

Ambitious new global strategy aims to save over 50 million lives through vaccination

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 26 April 2021 — While immunization services have started to recover from disruptions caused by COVID-19, millions of children remain vulnerable to deadly diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance warned today during World Immunization Week, highlighting the urgent need for a renewed global commitment to improve vaccination access and uptake.

“Vaccines will help us end the COVID-19 pandemic but only if we ensure fair access for all countries, and build strong systems to deliver them,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General. “And if we’re to avoid multiple outbreaks of life-threatening diseases like measles, yellow fever and diphtheria, we must ensure routine vaccination services are protected in every country in the world.”

A WHO survey has found that, despite progress when compared to the situation in 2020, more than one third of respondent countries (37%) still report experiencing disruptions to their routine immunization services.

Mass immunization campaigns are also disrupted. According to new data, 60 of these lifesaving campaigns are currently postponed in 50 countries, putting around 228 million people – mostly children – at risk for diseases such as measles, yellow fever and polio. Over half of the 50 affected countries are in Africa, highlighting protracted inequities in people’s access to critical immunization services…

New global immunization strategy aims to save over 50 million lives

To help tackle these challenges and support the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO UNICEF, Gavi and other partners today launched the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030), an ambitious new global strategy to maximize the lifesaving impact of vaccines through stronger immunization systems.

The Agenda focuses on vaccination throughout life, from infancy through to adolescence and older age. If fully implemented, it will avert an estimated 50 million deaths, according to WHO – 75% of them in low- and lower-middle income countries.

Targets to be achieved by 2030 include:

:: Achieve 90% coverage for essential vaccines given in childhood and adolescence[i]

:: Halve the number of children completely missing out on vaccines

:: Complete 500 national or subnational introductions of new or under-utilized vaccines  – such as those for COVID-19, rotavirus, or human papillomavirus (HPV)

Urgent action needed from all immunization stakeholders

To achieve IA2030’s ambitious goals, WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and partners are calling for bold action:

:: World leaders and the global health and development community should make explicit commitments to IA2030 and invest in stronger immunization systems, with tailored approaches for fragile and conflict-affected countries. Immunization is a vital element of an effective health care system, central to pandemic preparedness and response, and key to preventing the burden of multiple epidemics as societies reopen

:: All countries should develop and implement ambitious national immunization plans that align with the IA2030 framework, and increase investments to make immunization services accessible to all

:: Donors and governments should increase investments in vaccine research and innovation, development, and delivery, focused on the needs of underserved populations

:: The pharmaceutical industry and scientists, working with governments and funders, should continue to accelerate vaccine R&D, ensure a continuous supply of affordable vaccines to meet global needs, and apply lessons from COVID-19 to other diseases