UNICEF Australia urges parents to continue children’s immunisations during COVID-19

SYDNEY, 27 APRIL 2020: As Australians are being called to stay home during COVID-19 social distancing regulations, UNICEF Australia is urging parents not to delay essential immunisations for their children. World Immunisation Week runs from 24 April 2020 - 30 April 2020 and serves as a timely reminder for parents in Australia and the wider region to call GPs or local doctors and check their families are up to date.

Around the world, COVID-19 has hit hard and already 24 countries are unable to implement their immunisation programs, putting more than 117 million children at risk of preventable childhood diseases. “Despite having a safe and effective vaccine for over 50 years, measles cases surged over recent years and claimed more than 140,000 lives in 2018, mostly of children and babies – all of which were preventable”, a statement by the Measles & Rubella Initiative last week warned. 

Close to home, measles immunisation programs have been delayed in Vietnam and the Philippines, and Polio is still a concern due to pockets of unimmunised children in Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor Leste. 

“In Australia we’ve worked hard to achieve immunisation rates that are high overall, and it is essential that we maintain this progress.  Whilst we are doing well overall on childhood immunisations, the percentage of children who are fully immunised at the age of two is lower than other age groups. We must  accelerate the pace of progress of childhood immunisations. Any declines, particularly for this age group, would be a cause for concern” ​said ​Felicity Wever, Director of International Programs at UNICEF Australia, 

“Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that childhood immunisation rates remain high so as to avoid outbreaks of preventable childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough, which would be even more devastating at the moment due to the strain on the health system.” 

UNICEF Australia, has been working in communities in Australia and the Asia Pacific region since 1966 to ensure the wellbeing of children, including implementing infrastructure for child health such as immunisation programs. Globally, UNICEF reaches almost half of the world's children with life-saving vaccines every year.

“It’s at times like the COVID-19 crisis that we see the long term benefits of such programs, but we can’t let our guard down on immunisation because we’re fighting the COVID-19 battle. Good health and hygiene is our best defence and everyone has a role to play”, Felicity said.

“Please, check in with your GP or check your child’s health records to make sure their immunisations are up to date, and spend a little time outside the bubble to ensure your child gets these very important immunisations.”

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Notes 

You can find images of UNICEF’s vaccination work here

UNICEF Australia is working to provide essential resources for children and families in Australia and the wider region. Find out more at unicef.org.au/coronavirus. For more information on UNICEF’s immunization programs, visit https://www.unicef.org/immunization 

For more details, please contact:

Gemma Hill, UNICEF Australia, +61 432 233 675, ghill@unicef.org.au