Story at a glance

  • At least 21 countries are reporting vaccine shortages amid the outbreak.
  • Some 13 million people have been affected across the world by delays in regular immunizations.
  • WHO warned earlier this month more than 100 million children could miss out on the measles vaccine this year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the coronavirus pandemic is “far from over” and that the global health crisis is forcing some countries to temporarily stop vaccinations for other deadly diseases.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters that at least 21 countries are reporting vaccine shortages as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions. Tedros said the tragic reality is “children will die as a result.”


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“Children may be at relatively low risk from severe disease and death from COVID-19 — the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus — but can be at high risk from other diseases that can be prevented with vaccines,” Tedros said. 

The director-general said 14 vaccinations campaigns have been postponed that would have immunized more than 13 million people for diseases such as polio, measles, cholera, human papillomavirus, yellow fever and meningitis. 

The health agency warned earlier this month that more than 100 million children around the world are at risk of missing out on measles vaccinations this year alone due to coronavirus lockdowns. 

“When vaccination coverage goes down, more outbreaks will occur, including life-threatening diseases,” Tedros said. Tedros said health care services for other diseases, such as malaria, have been disrupted, and the number of malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa could double. 

He urged members of the agency to help ensure vaccination programs are fully funded, noting that the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization will need $7.4 billion to immunize 300 million children with 18 vaccines by 2025. 

The WHO official said the agency is concerned about new cases in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries. He said cases and deaths are underreported in countries in these regions due to low testing capacity. 

More than 3 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide since the outbreak began late last year, and more than 212,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


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Published on Apr 27, 2020