UNICEF, WHO call for emergency funds to prevent major measles, polio epidemics

UNICEF and WHO issued an emergency call to action Nov. 6, estimating that $655 million is needed to address the major measles and polio vaccination disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More than 94 million vulnerable children worldwide have missed out on measles vaccinations alone due to pauses brought on by the novel coronavirus, the organizations said. 

"We cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against another disease," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. "We need additional financial resources to safely resume vaccination campaigns and prioritize immunization systems that are critical to protect children and avert other epidemics besides COVID-19."

There's been a significant resurgence of polio and measles in recent years, with over 850,000 measles cases reported in 2019, the highest rise in more than two decades. COVID-19 has only exacerbated vaccination gaps in countries that are not Gavi eligible, meaning their average gross national income per capita is too high to yield vaccination funding from Gavi, a global vaccine alliance. The emergency funding requested would go toward vaccination efforts in non-Gavi-eligible, middle-income countries that are most affected by the outbreaks. 

A novel oral polio vaccine and Measles Outbreak Strategic Response Plan will also roll out in the next few months, the organizations said. 

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