At least 80 million babies are at risk for diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio due to vaccination interruptions, three international organizations warned.
Routine vaccination efforts have been "substantially stopped" in 68 countries due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials from the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said on Friday.
"Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health," said WHO director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a statement.
The interruptions are due, in part, to parents 'fear of catching coronavirus, health professionals' access to protective equipment and delays in vaccine travel.
Vaccination campaigns have been suspended in several countries due to the coronavirus pandemic, including polio campaigns in 38 countries and measles campaigns in 27 countries.
At least 24 million people in many low-income countries are at risk of losing vaccines against polio, measles, typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, rotavirus, HPV, meningitis A and rubella, the organizations said.
"We fear that COVID-19 is a health crisis that is rapidly turning into a child rights crisis," said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore at a WHO press conference.
"We cannot leave our fight against a disease at the expense of long-term progress in the fight against other diseases. We cannot exchange one deadly outbreak for another," he added.
She pleaded with countries to track unvaccinated children and said they needed to close the gaps in vaccine deliveries.
Blockages and border closures have also contributed to problems in supply chains and transportation of vaccination supplies.
There is a decline in commercial flights, Fore said, and chartering is difficult to achieve, which also creates gaps in vaccine deliveries.
WHO director of immunization, Dr. Kate O & # 39; Brien, added that pathogens "do not recognize borders".
"We are all at risk when any country is at risk and, as we say especially for measles, which is one of the most communicable pathogens, measles anywhere is measles everywhere," said O & # 39; Brien.
Seth Berkley, head of Gavi, an international vaccine alliance organization, called the scale of the impact of the vaccination pandemic "alarming".
"It's something we haven't seen in life," added Berkley.
The World Health Organization said it would issue guidelines on how to conduct vaccination campaigns with protective measures in place due to COVID-19.