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Disrupted vaccinations pose deadly threat to 80m kids: UN

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The coronavirus pandemic is putting tens of millions of children’s lives at risk by disrupting routine immunization programs, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said Friday.

The United Nations agencies joined forces with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to warn that the pandemic has severely disrupted vaccination programs in dozens of countries, paving the way for a deadly resurgence of preventable diseases.

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“COVID-19 threatens to undermine life-saving immunization services around the world,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual joint press conference.

“This risks putting tens of millions of children — in rich and poor countries — at risk of killer diseases like diphtheria, measles and pneumonia.”

He said that while the world was seeking a safe and effective vaccine for the new coronavirus, vaccines that were already available to prevent other diseases still needed to be delivered.

“Initial analysis suggests the provision of routine immunization services is substantially hindered in at least 68 countries and is likely to affect approximately 80 million children under the age of one living in these countries,” Tedros said.

“Any suspension of childhood vaccination services is a major threat to life.”

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Meanwhile experts said it was vital to maintain the structure of routine vaccination programs in poorer countries, because those networks would be the same ones used to distribute an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.

– Innovative solutions –

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, said measles vaccination campaigns had been suspended in 27 countries and polio campaigns in 38 states.

UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said countries have had to suspend campaigns due to the need to maintain physical distancing, while some health centers have been overwhelmed by coronavirus response efforts.

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Meanwhile health workers have been redeployed to treat COVID-19 patients, and some parents have been unable to get their children to vaccination sites due to movement restrictions.

She said countries needed to step up efforts to track unvaccinated children, and find innovative solutions, as Laos has done by immunizing children in supermarkets.

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Gavi chief Seth Berkley said countries had to do everything they could to keep vaccinating.

“If we neglect the supply chains and immunization infrastructure that keep these programs running, we also risk harming our ability to roll our the COVID-19 vaccines that represent our best chance of defeating this pandemic, when they are ready,” he said.

He appealed for countries to dig deep at a June 4 global vaccine donors’ summit, hosted in London.

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The novel coronavirus has killed at least 332,000 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

At least 5.1 million cases have been registered in 196 countries and territories.

“As the world passes five million recorded cases of COVID-19, we recognize the importance of building national unity and global solidarity to learn from each other and suppress the virus everywhere,” Tedros said.


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Big chain retailers — including Target and Home Depot — beg government to enforce standard mask-wearing nationwide

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In a letter sent to the National Governors Association, an industry group representing many of the largest retailers in the U.S. asked the country's governors to mandate and enforce rules requiring people to wear masks at all times while in public.

With the coronavirus spiking dramatically in some states, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Target and Home Depot among others, sent the letter on Monday, reports CBS News.

One major issue has been the increasing incidence of angry shoppers attacking employees due to non-standardized rules on masks.

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New Zealand restricts entry for Kiwis escaping coronavirus

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New Zealand began restricting the return of its own nationals Tuesday as the country faces an accelerating influx of citizens fleeing coronavirus outbreaks overseas and limited quarantine facilities.

National carrier Air New Zealand put a three-week freeze on new bookings and the government is in talks with other airlines to limit capacity, officials said.

New Zealand has gone 67 days without any cases of coronavirus in the community and its 22 active cases are all in managed quarantine facilities for New Zealanders flocking home from worsening epidemics elsewhere.

There are nearly 6,000 people currently undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine in the facilities and another 3,500 are due to arrive this week.

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COVID-19

‘Do your part’: WWII film ‘Greyhound’ teaches virus lesson, says Hanks

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Tom Hanks is "heartbroken" that his World War II thriller must skip the big screen due to the pandemic -- but hopes it can still teach audiences at home a thing or two about acting decently in a global crisis.

"Greyhound," out on Apple TV+ Friday, was written by and stars Hanks as a rookie captain escorting a convoy of Allied ships as they cross the freezing North Atlantic, hounded by Nazi U-boats.

The movie follows a destroyer's terrified young crew crossing the treacherous ocean beyond the range of air cover, bound together in life-and-death responsibility for protecting the fleet and each other.

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