The coronavirus pandemic is “far from over” and is still disrupting normal health services, especially life-saving immunization for children in the poorest countries, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
The U.N. agency is concerned about rising numbers of cases and deaths in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries, even as the numbers flatten or decline in some wealthier nations.
“We have a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to do,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference in Geneva, adding that a second wave of infections could be prevented with the right actions.
The novel coronavirus, which emerged late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has already infected 3 million and claimed 205,948 lives. Tedros expressed concern that the health of children was being threatened by the impact of the coronavirus emergency on vaccination programs for other diseases.
“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,” said Tedros.
Some 13 million people have been affected worldwide by delays in regular immunizations against diseases including polio, measles, cholera, yellow fever and meningitis, he said.