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25 million kids have missed routine vaccinations due to COVID-19, WHO report says

GENEVA (AP) - About 25 million children worldwide have missed out on routine immunizations against common diseases like diptheria, largely because the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular health services or triggered misinformation about vaccines, according to the U.N.In a new report published Friday, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said their figures show 25 million children last year failed to get vaccinated against diptheria, tetanus and pertussis, a marker for childhood immunization coverage, continuing a downward trend that began in 2019."This is a red alert for child health," said Catherine Russell, UNICEF's Executive Director."We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation," she said, adding that the consequences would be measured in lives lost.Data showed the vast majority of the children who failed to get immunized were living in developing countries, namely Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines. While vaccine coverage fell in every world region, the worst effects were seen in East Asia and the Pacific.Experts said this "historic backsliding" in vaccination coverage was especially disturbing since it was occurring as rates of severe malnutrition were rising.

Malnourished children typically have weaker immune systems and infections like measles can often prove fatal to them."The convergence of a hunger crisis with a growing immunization gap threatens to create the conditions for a child survival crisis," the U.N. said.Scientists said low vaccine coverage rates had already resulted in preventable outbreaks of diseases like measles and polio.

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