Missed childhood vaccines could be bigger threat than COVID-19, WHO says

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a major decline in childhood immunization rates worldwide, the consequences of which could be more severe than the pandemic, the World Health Organization warned

“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said in a statement cited by The Hill.

The WHO, CDC and other health partners polled 82 countries June 5-20. Sixty-nine percent of countries reporting on their vaccine programs said efforts were disrupted or suspended due to the pandemic. The most common reasons for disrupted vaccine programs were shortages of personal protective equipment, travel restrictions and a lack of available health workers.

Preliminary data for January through April also shows a "substantial drop" in the number of children receiving three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, the WHO said. This could be the first time the world sees a drop in immunization coverage for these diseases in 28 years.

The WHO and UNICEF said they are providing resources and services to help countries make up lost ground on childhood vaccinations. 

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