More than 50 million children worldwide have missed their essential polio immunisations this year, after door-to-door vaccination campaigns were paused and medical staff redirected amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts say the suspension of immunisations — which were halted because they did not comply with global physical distancing recommendations — could have a particularly worrisome impact for the Pacific and Southeast Asia, because of the region’s weak health systems and poor immunisation rates.
While stopping polio vaccinations was “necessary” given the unparalleled speed of COVID-19 infections through March, April and May, the decision is expected to increase the likelihood of future polio cases significantly.
“When vaccination campaigns are delayed it becomes harder to maintain high immunity against polio, thus leaving children vulnerable to infection and serious illnesses,” Luo Dapeng, a World Health Organisation country representative in Papua New Guinea, told Global Citizen. “The COVID-19 response has necessitated the postponement of polio immunisation campaigns in countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia, and has caused the…