The coronavirus pandemic is putting tens of millions of children’s lives at risk by disrupting routine immunisation programmes, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF said Friday.

The United Nations agencies joined forces with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to warn that the pandemic has severely disrupted vaccination programmes in dozens of countries, paving the way for a deadly resurgence of preventable diseases.

“COVID-19 threatens to undermine life-saving immunisation services around the world,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual joint press conference.

“This risks putting tens of millions of children – in rich and poor countries – at risk of killer diseases like diphtheria, measles and pneumonia.”

He said that while the world was seeking a safe and effective vaccine for the new coronavirus, vaccines that were already available to prevent other diseases still needed to be delivered.