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Warning that the world is less prepared for the next pandemic than it was prior to the spread of COVID-19, Chelsea Clinton — via the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) — along with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched an initiative called “The Big Catch-up.”
“The Big Catch-up” will last 18 months and, according to Clinton, aims to become “the largest childhood immunization effort ever,” Fortune reported.
Clinton, who serves as vice chair of CHAI, last week presented the initiative at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Conference in Marina del Rey, California.
One day earlier, under the auspices of World Immunization Week, the WHO introduced “The Big Catch-up,” describing it as a “targeted global effort to boost vaccination among children following declines driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the WHO:
“This effort aims to reverse the declines in childhood vaccination recorded in over 100 countries since the pandemic, due to overburdened health services, closed clinics, and disrupted imports and exports of vials, syringes and other medical supplies.”
During the pandemic, lockdowns led to restricted travel, which limited access to healthcare and other services, and in many cases, families suffered financial hardship, the WHO said.
“Ongoing challenges like conflicts, climate crises and vaccine hesitancy also contributed to the decline in coverage rates,” according to the WHO, which said the new initiative will act as “an extended effort to lift vaccination levels among children to at least pre-pandemic levels and endeavours to exceed those.”
More than 25 million children missed at least one vaccination in 2021 alone, leading to “outbreaks of preventable diseases, including measles, diphtheria, polio and yellow fever,” the WHO said.
“The Big Catch-up” will focus on the 20 countries — all in Africa, Asia and Central and South America — where three-quarters of the children who missed vaccinations in 2021 live.
According to Fortune, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 70% of children in the U.S. under age 2 were considered “fully vaccinated” — defined as “having received a full set of shots for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, and other diseases common before the vaccine era” — during 2020-2021.
The CDC data also show that only 10% of children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of Dec. 31, 2022.
During her presentation at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Conference, Clinton described the rise in “vaccine hesitancy” and growing rejection of vaccines as “unfortunate,” adding that she had “tempered” her words.
“No one should die of polio, measles, or pneumonia — including in this country, where we also need people to vaccinate their kids,” she added.
“The Big Catch-up” also aims to promote other vaccines that are not part of childhood immunization schedules.
According to the WHO:
“In addition to catching-up on childhood immunization, intensified efforts are needed to introduce the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to adolescents to prevent cervical cancer, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where the burden is highest.”
Aside from the WHO, CHAI, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation, other partners involved with “The Big Catch-up” include Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Immunization Agenda 2030.
Commenting on the initiative, Chris Elias, M.D., MPH, president of global development at the Gates Foundation, said “Vaccines are a public health triumph,” adding that “We must double down to reach all children with the vaccines they need to live healthier lives and ensure that future generations live free of preventable diseases like polio.”
Elias participated in a March 2021 simulation of a global monkeypox outbreak that hypothetically would occur in May 2022 — which turned out to be the month that a global outbreak of monkeypox actually began.
Other participants in the simulation included Dr. Margaret Hamburg, a former FDA commissioner on the board of Gavi, and George Fu Gao, Ph.D., former director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who is a member of the WHO’s One Health High-Level Expert Panel that aims to promote the concept of “One Health” globally.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, also commented on “The Big Catch-up”:
“We cannot allow a legacy of the pandemic to be the undoing of many years’ work protecting more and more children from deadly, preventable diseases. Global health partners, working with governments and communities, must do everything we can to protect the life of every child.”
Berkley, who formerly was affiliated with the CDC and the Rockefeller Foundation, has previously praised efforts to combat “misinformation” on the internet and the WHO’s decision to extend the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The Gates Foundation, Gavi, UNICEF, the WHO and the Rockefeller Foundation are interconnected in a number of ways.
Gavi says it “helps vaccinate almost half the world’s children against deadly and debilitating infectious diseases.” It was established in 1999, with the Gates Foundation as one of its co-founders and one of its four permanent board members. Gavi maintains a core partnership with the WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank.
The Gates Foundation is particularly active in relation to malaria, issuing grants to firms conducting research involving genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes, and is connected to research studying a potential malaria vaccine using GM mosquitoes.
The Rockefeller Foundation also is a partner and board member — and donor — to Gavi.
In turn, CHAI, founded in 2002 and “committed to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease in low-and-middle-income countries,” says it works “with partners to prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and cancer [and] accelerate the rollout of lifesaving vaccines.”
Such partners include the Gates Foundation, with which it has collaborated on several projects dating back to 2011, as stated in CHAI’s most recent annual report.
Four pages in CHAI’s 2021 annual report are dedicated exclusively to vaccines, describing immunization as “a powerful tool for saving lives and improving health outcomes globally,” whilst outlining its activities in several countries.
For example, the report states that “In 2021, we worked with Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda to improve DTP3 [diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus] immunization.”
Clinton also has a long history of collaborating with the WHO and has been active in the promotion of vaccines even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by the following 2018 tweet:
It’s World Immunization Week! Vaccinations save 2-3 million lives every year by protecting against these diseases and more. #VaccinesWork https://t.co/JIlLo51Pgu
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 23, 2018
Clinton also participated in an April 10 podcast, “A Conversation about Vaccination with Young Advocates,” alongside Dr. Paul A. Offit, a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, co-editor of the “Vaccines” textbook and co-inventor of the RotaTeq rotavirus vaccine.
In this podcast, Clinton and Offit discussed “challenges in closing the gap in adolescent vaccination and talk[ed] with teen advocates about their needs and challenges in helping adolescents advocate for their health.”
In other instances, Clinton has been outspoken about alleged vaccine “misinformation.”
In an Aug. 9, 2021, tweet, Clinton wrote that “vaccines save lives” and described this as a “controversial statement … in an era rife with disinformation.”
Vaccines save lives. This shouldn’t be a controversial statement, and yet — in an era rife with disinformation — to many it is.
Looking forward to speaking with Dr. @celinegounder, Senator @amyklobuchar and @HealthierGen’s Donna Crawford about confronting vaccine disinformation. https://t.co/X4WsVZHDUI
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) August 9, 2021
And in an April 21, 2021, Voices for Vaccines “vax talk,” Clinton explained why she was “working so hard on global health” and “tak[ing] a stand for vaccines.”
In this same talk, Clinton referenced the so-called “Disinformation Dozen” who disseminate alleged vaccine “misinformation.” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman on leave of Children’s Health Defense, was one of the dozen individuals named in this list.