Pandemic brings mass vaccinations to a halt

“A devil’s choice.” That’s how Seth Berkley, head of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, describes the dilemma facing global health organizations in the past few weeks. They could either continue to support mass vaccination campaigns in poor countries but risk that they would inadvertently help spread COVID-19—or recommend their suspension, inevitably triggering an upsurge of many other infectious diseases.

In the end, they chose the latter, and mass vaccination campaigns against a host of diseases are now grinding to a halt in many countries. For many children, these campaigns are the only chance to get vaccines. Some 13.5 million have already missed out on vaccinations for polio, measles, human papillomavirus, yellow fever, cholera, and meningitis since the suspensions began, Berkley says. “I tell you those numbers will be much larger than what we see today.” The fallout may last long after the pandemic subsides. And in the case of polio, the pause imperils the success of a 3-decade eradication campaign that was already in trouble.

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