Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, most countries continue with routine immunization for children while applying strict precautionary health measures. However, in some countries, special vaccination campaigns have had to come to a halt as health workers were diverted to the response of COVID-19. As a result, one in five children or 10 million children under the age of five risk missing their polio vaccination while nearly 4.5 million children under the age of 15 risk missing their measles vaccination.
Immunization for children is possible even in the time of COVID, using protective measures to protect the child, the mother and the vaccinator. It is absolutely critical that every child gets immunized against deadly diseases including polio, measles, diphtheria and hepatitis
Precautionary measures during immunization campaigns include abiding to a disinfection process, using personal protective equipment including gloves, face masks and robes as well as avoiding overcrowding and adhering to social spacing in health care centres.
To facilitate vaccination campaigns for children, UNICEF will continue to support health authorities and health workers across the region:
- Close monitoring of in-country vaccine stocks to avoid expiry of vaccines, especially in countries where routine vaccination or campaigns activities have been suspended.
- The procurement and shipment of vaccines especially to countries where borders have been closed or flights have been suspended.
- Despite challenges, movement restrictions and closures of borders and air space in most countries of the region, UNICEF was able to bring in 17.5 million doses of vaccines to the Middle East and North Africa since the beginning of the year. More shipments of vaccines and other lifesaving supplies are in the pipeline.
- Continue to support health authorities and health workers on the frontlines with the delivery of critical medical, health and hygiene supplies, including personal protective equipment like surgical masks, gowns, gloves and goggles, COVID-19 testing kits, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, thermometers and the training of health workers on infection prevention.