Saturday 19 September, 2020

COVID fears result in 12-14% decline in immunisations in the region

While Countries of the Americas have implemented innovative strategies to boost immunization programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about risk of exposure, as well as challenges accessing services during lockdown, have led to a reduction in vaccination coverage, a series of internal surveys from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) show.

The Summary of the Status of National Immunization Programs during the COVID-19 Pandemic reveals that public concern around the risk of exposure to COVID-19 has affected demand for vaccination services. Other issues, such as lockdown or physical distancing, as well as limitations in public transport have also led to a reduction in vaccination coverage and an increase in existing gaps.

Reports from 23 countries reveal a decrease of between 12 per cent and 14 per cent in the number of doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP) and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine administered to children when compared to the same period last year, particularly in March.

Dr Cuauhtemoc Ruiz Matus, Head of PAHO’s Immunization program, emphasized the need for “countries to continue to implement innovative measures and strategies to reach those who have not been vaccinated.” He also called for more initiatives in social communication “to transmit messages to the population regarding the importance of immunization in keeping people healthy and protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

The closure of international borders and problems with international transport has also led to difficulties in the delivery of vaccines and supplies for national immunization programs, with surveys from 18 countries (47%) reporting issues in this area. 

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