The world was making progress against killer flus. Then COVID hit.

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Credit: Getty Images

The number of people living in extreme poverty globally has risen 7.1% so far this year in the pandemic, according to [a report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation] published [September 14].

The pandemic has also pushed the percentage of children who are vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis down to the level it was last at in 2000, according to data from the report. Vaccinations against other diseases have also fallen off, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which provided data for the Gates Foundation report.

“When you drop back into that extreme poverty, it is very hard to find your way out of it,” said Melinda Gates.

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Related article:  Flu season threatens to overwhelm doctors and hospitals swamped by COVID

A big question now, she said, is how long it will take to reclaim the progress made in recent years in improving health, equity and prosperity. It will depend in large part on how long the pandemic lasts and a recovery takes, she said.

“We just don’t know, is it going to be a decade until people come out of that?” she said.

Restarting vaccination will depend on how quickly health ministers can get primary health clinics up and running again, she said. Some campaigns could start again soon, Ms. Gates said. “One thing that is good is that we do know with vaccines how to do catch-up campaigns,” she said.

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