Global COVID cases drop as pandemic disrupts routine US kids' vaccines

Older man getting COVID vaccine in Thailand
Older man getting vaccinated in Thailand

Gumpanat / iStock

In its weekly snapshot of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that global cases dropped for the fourth straight week, with illness levels—as well as deaths—down in all regions.

In US developments, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a drop in routine (non-COVID) childhood vaccination rates in kindergarteners, due to COVID-19 disruptions, as the nation's cases inch upward again.

Cases approach pre-Omicron level

About 5 million cases were reported last week, a drop of 24% compared to the week before, putting the world at the level it was in the middle of December, before the height of the Omicron variant surge, which was the biggest of the pandemic. The five countries that reported the most cases were South Korea, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

The WHO has urged people to interpret the trends with caution, however, given that countries are stepping down some of their testing strategies, which would likely influence case counts.

Countries reported about 18,000 COVID-19 deaths, reflecting a decrease of 12%. The United States reported the most, followed by Russia, South Korea, Germany, and Italy.

Though cases declined in all of the world's regions, a few countries reported increases over the last week. In Africa, cases were up sharply in Niger, Mozambique, and Zambia. In the Americas, cases were up in Suriname, Haiti, Saint Lucia, and the United States. In the European region, cases were up in Kyrgyzstan and Andorra. And in Asia, Guam and China reported case rises.

Shanghai keeps tight restrictions

In China, a lockdown will continue in Shanghai—even in districts with no cases—due to persistent infections outside of quarantine settings, officials said today at a briefing, according to Reuters.

The city's 26 million people are in their fourth week of lockdown, which has affected global supply chains and has been a drag on China's economy.

China today reported 19,382 new local cases, of which 16,552 were asymptomatic. Of the symptomatic cases, 93% were from Shanghai, and of the asymptomatic infections, 95% were from Shanghai. Also today China reported eight more deaths, all in Shanghai.

Elsewhere in the region, Taiwan—where a surge recently began—reported 3,058 new cases today, according to CNA. Only six patients, though, so far have moderate infections, with the rest mild or asymptomatic. Officials have said cases aren't yet at peak levels, which could reach 10,000 a day.

Hong Kong, where cases are steadily declining after its worst surge, has reopened beauty parlors, theme parks, and movie theaters for the first time in 4 months, according to Reuters.

US childhood vaccination rates drop

In US news, rates of routine childhood vaccines for incoming kindergarteners during the 2021-22 school year dropped to 94%, according to new data today from the CDC. The CDC said the drop is another outcome of disrupted medical care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are 35,000 more children in the United States during this time period without documentation of complete vaccination against common diseases," Georgina Peacock, MD, the acting director of the CDC's immunization services division, said today during a press conference.

The target 95% threshold was not met for the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine nor for the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine.

In other school-related news, Milwaukee Public Schools reinstated its district-wide mask mandate on Apr 19, just 1 day after making masks optional, ABC News reports. District officials cited significant transmission of COVID-19 in the city as the reason for the mandate returning.

COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the country. The United States reported 68,781 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 877 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.

The 7-day average of new daily cases is 43,357, with 386 daily deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.

CIDRAP News Reporter Stephanie Soucheray contributed to this story.

This week's top reads