Transformational
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Eyes on the prize

19 June, 2020

COVID-19 is the biggest risk to global health, right? Perhaps not… 

As the world focuses its attention on COVID-19, new reports highlight the risks of overlooking other significant public health issues. This week, the Gates Foundation announced a $1.6 billion commitment to Gavi Vaccine Alliance to deliver vaccinations to 300 million more children over the next 5 years. Of course, this new 5-year strategic period for Gavi will include deploying COVID-19 vaccines to low income countries when they become available. But the plan focuses heavily on ensuring routine vaccinations continue throughout this period of COVID-19 disruption to protect children from deadly, but preventable, diseases that still plague many countries.

Since its inception 20 years ago, Gavi has immunized 750 million children and estimates suggest this programme has saved 13 million lives. But all of this progress is risked by lockdown measures that hinder essential services. London School of Tropical Health and Medicine recently reported that lock down measures that prevent vaccinations in Africa could result in 140 deaths for every one life saved through COVID-19 measures. Plus the additional impacts of COVID-19 that risks pushing up to 420 million people back into extreme poverty.

COVID-19 has highlighted weaknesses and complexities within all of our societies. While, of course, we need to find ways of dealing with the most immediate crisis, it’s essential that we find ways of managing the multitude of other current and future health (amongst other) crises we will face in the coming decades.

By Jennie Mitchell

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