The Covid-19 outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Since then, experts from all over the world have been fearing a major humanitarian crisis especially in the underdeveloped and developing countries.
Factors like overcrowding, mass migration of laborers, poor sanitation, improper waste management, malnutrition, and limited access to health care may lead to the spread of communicable diseases. The vaccine–preventable diseases (VPD) might spread, if immunization services are disrupted.
The Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) fears that over 117 million children in 37 countries may miss out on receiving life-saving measles vaccines. The measles immunization campaigns in 24 countries have already been delayed.
While the health care system and front lines workers are facing many challenges beyond the Covid-19 threat, continuation of all immunization services needs to be ensured to save lives that would otherwise be lost to various VPDs.
The WHO and the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Immunization Practices (ACVIP) recommends the continuation of routine immunizations, especially the primary vaccine doses, to be administered in the first year- wherever safe and feasible.
An attempt should be made to vaccinate all newborns at birth, before discharge, with BCG, OPV and Hepatitis B vaccines.
The primary vaccination series including DPT, Hep B, Hib, OPV/IPV, Rotavirus vaccines, PCV, Influenza, Varicella and MR/MMR needs to be prioritized. The vulnerable groups should receive influenza vaccine on a priority basis.
Vaccines for Typhoid, Hepatitis A and HPV and other boosters could be postponed to a later date, if necessary.
However, all mass vaccination campaigns have been suspended considering the need to maintain mandatory social distancing.
Meanwhile, to close the immunity gaps in the regions where immunization services have been suspended, services will have to be restored at the earliest. The catch-up immunization activities for outbreak-prone VPDs such as measles, polio, diphtheria, and yellow fever should be resumed asap.
Spreading awareness amongst parents and healthcare providers at all levels regarding the importance of vaccination during Covid-19 health emergency can prevent deaths from VPDs soon and support the already strained health system in India.