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U.N. Points To 'Alarming Decline' In Child Vaccinations

Medical staff in Mumbai, India,  last week. A U.N. report warns that the coronavirus pandemic is interfering with children getting vaccinated.
Anshuman Poyrekar
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Medical staff in Mumbai, India, last week. A U.N. report warns that the coronavirus pandemic is interfering with children getting vaccinated.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF said on Wednesday that they anticipate an "alarming decline" in the number of children receiving potentially life-saving vaccines due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The United Nations organizations warnedof the first drop in 28 years for vaccines against diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DPT3) — a marker for immunization coverage — based on preliminary data from the first four months of 2020.

The report also said that at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns across the world have either been canceled or are at risk of being canceled because of the pandemic. It also cited a survey that said three-quarters of 82 responding countries reported disruptions because of the virus.

"Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "But the pandemic has put those gains at risk. The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself."

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that vaccination programs must resume immediately to prevent a potential resurgence in disease.

"COVID-19 has made previously routine vaccination a daunting challenge," Fore said. "We must prevent a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and urgently resume vaccination programs before children's lives are threatened by other diseases. We cannot trade one health crisis for another."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Austin Horn is a 2019-2020 Kroc Fellow. He joined NPR after internships at the San Antonio Express-News and Frankfort State-Journal, as well as a couple stints in the service industry. He aims to keep his reporting grounded in the experience of real individuals of all stripes.
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