Childhood diseases on rise as COVID-19 slows routine vaccinations -U.N.

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A mother has her child vaccinated in a displacement camp outside Mogadishu, Somalia, December 8, 2007. This month the United Nations Children's Fund and the Somali Red Crescent Society provided vaccinations against basic diseases, such as TB and polio, for some 50,000 children in the displacement camps outside Mogadishu, the epicenter of what U.N. officials call Africa's worst humanitarian crisis. (Photo by Shashank Bengali/MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: A mother has her child vaccinated in a displacement camp outside Mogadishu, Somalia. (Photo by Shashank Bengali/MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Nearly 23 million children missed out on routine vaccinations last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest number in more than a decade, fuelling outbreaks of measles, polio and other preventable diseases, U.N. agencies said on Thursday.

Measles, one of the world’s most contagious diseases, can be fatal to children under the age of five, especially in African and Asian countries with weak health systems, according to the World Health Organization. Polio can cripple a child for life.

The gap in global vaccination coverage has set up a “perfect storm”, leaving more children vulnerable to infectious pathogens just as many countries ease COVID-19 restrictions, the WHO and U.N. Children’s Fund said in an annual report.

Ten countries, led by India and Nigeria, account for the bulk of the 22.7 million children left unvaccinated or under-vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) in 2020 – 3.7 million more than in 2019 and the most since 2009, it said regarding a key indicator of childhood vaccination rates.

“Large and disruptive” outbreaks of measles have been recorded in hotspots including Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia and Yemen, the report added.

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