TAMPA, Fla. - Public health officials are calling it a red alert for child health after a report that 25 million children worldwide did not get routine vaccinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concern among virologists is that the trend of declining immunizations will lead to the spread of infectious diseases around the world, the vast majority of which is preventable.
"If these things come in, they are highly contagious," stated Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a health professor at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Unnasch said world health leaders are right to be alarmed as global vaccination coverage sees its worst decline in a generation, according to the United Nations.
"What we are doing here is, you’re opening up the chance for these pathogens once again to get out there and start to spread," Unnasch added.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF reported Thursday that 25 million infants missed out on life-saving vaccines in 2021 amid worldwide disruptions caused by COVID.
"Things were really messed up in 2020 and 2021 in terms of transport and all the rest," Unnasch told FOX 13.
Even in developed nations like the United States, many parents are still trying to catch their kids up on shots after not seeing the doctor as often during the pandemic.
"We are seeing kids that are behind on their vaccines," said Dr. Meghan Martin, an emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. "I work in the emergency department so we are seeing kids that need an additional tetanus shot or they missed their tetanus shot."
But those disruptions are not the only factor driving the decline. Dr. Unnasch says the pandemic also fueled misinformation about vaccines in general.
"It has given the anti-vaccine groups a lot more visibility to spread the falsehoods that they spread regarding the vaccines," Unnasch said.
Vaccines that protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and others.
"We could see a resumption of measles, mumps, whooping cough and typhoid fever in this country, which would be something that would be really unfortunate," he explained.
With school starting in less than a month, certain shots are required for students entering kindergarten and seventh grade. Doctors say, don't wait until the last minute to make an appointment.