Impact of COVID-19 on routine immunisation in South-East Asia and Western Pacific: Disruptions and solutions
Lancet Reg Health West Pac
Background: Data on COVID-19-induced disruption to routine vaccinations in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions (SEAR/WPR) have been sparse. This study aimed to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on routine vaccinations by country, antigen, and sector (public or private), up to 1 June 2020, and to identify the reasons for disruption and possible solutions. Methods: Sanofi Pasteur teams from 19 countries in SEAR/WPR completed a structured questionnaire reporting on COVID-19 disruptions for 13-19 routinely delivered antigens per country, based on sales data, government reports, and regular physician interactions. Data were analysed descriptively, disruption causes ranked, and solutions evaluated using a modified public health best practices framework. Findings: 95% (18/19) of countries reported vaccination disruption. When stratified by country, a median of 91% (interquartile range 77-94) of antigens were impacted. Infancy and school-entry age vaccinations were most impacted. Both public and private sector healthcare providers experienced disruptions. Vaccination rates had not recovered for 39% of impacted antigens by 1 June 2020. Fear of infection, movement/travel restrictions, and limited healthcare access were the highest-ranked reasons for disruption. Highest-scoring solutions were separating vaccination groups from unwell patients, non-traditional vaccination venues, virtual engagement, and social media campaigns. Many of these solutions were under-utilised. Interpretation: COVID-19-induced disruption of routine vaccination was more widespread than previously reported. Adaptable solutions were identified which could be implemented in SEAR/WPR and elsewhere. Governments and private providers need to act urgently to improve coverage rates and plan for future waves of the pandemic, to avoid a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Funding: Sanofi Pasteur.