UNICEF’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, told CNBC that the organization is “very concerned” about the current Covid-19 crisis in India and has urged the international community to send immediate aid to the region.
During World Immunization Week, Fore stated that vaccinations are a “race to save lives,” particularly in some of the world’s poorest countries with “very fragile” health systems.
A deadly second wave of the virus is sweeping through India. On Saturday, India’s daily coronavirus cases surpassed 400,000 for the first time; the country’s cumulative cases have now surpassed 19 million, and more than 215,000 people have died from Covid.
“It is worrying for several reasons. One, is it a precursor to what might happen in other countries, particularly countries in Africa, with much weaker healthcare systems?” Fore said last week.
“It’s worrying because their health care system has been overwhelmed. It is the need for oxygen and therapeutics that we just have not seen in this pandemic in another country at this scale.”
On April 26, 2021, people wearing protective face masks wait to receive a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination centre in Mumbai, India.
UNICEF and the COVAX global vaccine programme, according to Fore, have sent assistance to the region, and aid from other countries is making a significant difference. “However, this is insufficient since India is a vital component of our supply chain. As a result, it is both where we obtain many vaccines and where we must now provide assistance to India as a whole “she continued.
UNICEF is the United Nations organization in charge of assisting children all over the world.
‘Help us now’
The world has stopped paying attention to other regular immunizations as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fore warned. Around 60 regular immunization programs have been halted around the world as countries concentrate their efforts on combating the pandemic.
The World Health Organization, UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and other partners are promoting a global initiative known as Immunization Agenda 2030 to resolve these issues while helping to assist in the recovery from the global pandemic. Via “an ambitious new global strategy to maximize the lifesaving impact of vaccines through stronger immunization systems,” the campaign seeks to save 50 million lives.
UNICEF’s compulsory immunizations of infants, according to Fore, account for about half of the world’s vaccinations.
“Polio, measles, yellow fever … all of these are vaccines that children need, but they’re also vaccines that adults need. So we are asking for families to come into primary health clinics in their own communities, bring their children in, get vaccinated for these childhood diseases, also get a Covid vaccine, and we can save 50 million lives,” she said.
Asked if she had a message for global leaders today, Fore said: “Well, help us now.”
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF on July 05, 2018 in BERLIN, GERMANY.
“We are worried that the world is not paying attention to things like routine immunizations. We cannot lose this population, our children, to one epidemic while we are worried about Covid as a pandemic for our world, so please help us now,” she added.
Despite the current global pandemic, Fore believes now is the best time to focus on such efforts.
“People now realize that vaccines are important, that vaccines work, that they save lives, and right now we are in a race to save lives,” she said.
“So if we can save them through a routine immunization program, reaching out to everyone in a society, that will help both routine immunizations and it will help Covid.”
However, Fore told CNBC that it can be hard to focus global investment on supporting the programs.
“Under the Covax facility there’s been a call for $23 billion, which sounds like an enormous amount, but really, when you look at global GDP and what is available in the world, it’s a very small number,” she said.
“So you realize that as a world we could afford this, and if we could get vaccines out to children and to adults in the coming years, we will be a world that would have more equity, more fairness, more health across the board.”