(NEW YORK POST) – WHO officials warned Monday that children across the globe will die as countries halt or scale back their immunization efforts for deadly diseases such as polio amid the coronavirus.
“Myths and misinformation about vaccines are adding fuel to the fire, putting vulnerable people at risk,’’ said Dr. Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, at a press conference.
“When vaccination coverage goes down, more outbreaks will occur, including of life-threatening diseases like measles and polio.
“Every year, more than 116 million infants are vaccinated, or 86 percent of all children born globally, but there are still more than 13 million children around the world who miss out on vaccination. We know that that number will increase because of COVID-19,’’ Tedros said.
“The tragic reality is that children will die as a result.”
He said that any concerns over children and parents contracting COVID-19 when they see their doctor during an immunization visit are far outweighed by the risk of getting another more deadly or otherwise debilitating disease by not getting vaccinated.
“Children may be at relatively low risk from severe disease and death from COVID-19 but can be at high risk from other diseases that can be prevented with vaccines,’’ Tedros said.
The top doc added that border closures and restricted travel within countries has only added to the debacle by creating shortages of the immunizations for those who want them.
He said Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — a public-private partnership involved with global immunization — has estimated that at least 21 lower-economic countries are already reporting vaccine shortages because of transportation issues.
Consequently, “so far, 14 vaccination campaigns supported by Gavi against polio, measles, cholera, human papillomavirus, yellow fever and meningitis have been postponed, which would have immunized more than 13 million people,’’ Tedros said.
“Immunization is one of the greatest success stories in the history of global health,’’ with more than 20 diseases prevented by vaccines, he said.
Yet “already, polio-vaccination campaigns have been put on hold and in some countries, routine immunization services are being scaled back or shut down,’’ the WHO chief said.
He added that now, “with the start of the Southern Hemisphere flu season, it’s vital that everyone gets their seasonal flu vaccine.
But “even when services are operating, some parents and caregivers are avoiding taking their children to be vaccinated because of concerns about COVID-19.”