Last year around 25 million children around the world missed out on routine vaccinations that protect against life-threatening diseases, as the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to disrupt health care globally.
The number increased by two million in comparison with 2020, when COVID-19 caused lockdowns around the world, and six million more than in 2019, according to new figures released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
UNICEF described the drop in vaccination coverage as the largest sustained backslide in children’s vaccinations in a generation, taking coverage rates back to levels from the early 2000s.
“I want to get across the urgency,” UNICEF’s senior immunisation specialist, Niklas Danielsson told Reuters. “This is a child health crisis,” he emphasised.
Inadequate immunization coverage leads to:
🚨 children dying from preventable illnesses
🚨 collapse of the global health system
We cannot let children needlessly suffer from preventable illnesses.#VaccinesWork to save lives!
📌 https://t.co/lEGqBYODbo pic.twitter.com/dPEEH40FXt
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 15, 2022
Routine vaccines down due to COVID-19
The agency said that a focus on COVID-19 immunisation campaigns in 2021, as well as the economic slowdown and strain on healthcare systems, hindered the recovery of routine vaccinations.
Coverage dropped in every region, the figures showed, which are estimated using data on the take-up of three-dose diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) jab and include both children who get no jabs at all and those who miss out on any of the three doses. Globally, coverage fell by 5 percent to 81 percent last year.
The number of “zero-dose” children, who did not receive any vaccinations, rose by 37 percent between 2019 and 2021, from 13 to 18 million children mostly in low and middle-income countries, the data showed.
1⃣8⃣ million children did not receive a single vaccine in 2021 – the largest ↘️ in 29 years, due to:
🔸 #COVID19-related disruptions
🔸 misinformation undermining vaccine acceptance & demand
WHO & @UNICEF sound the alarm 🚨
🆕 data on global vaccine coverage ⬇️
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 14, 2022
For many diseases, more than 90 percent of children need to be vaccinated in order to prevent outbreaks. There have already been reports of rising cases of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent months, including a 400 percent rise in measles cases in Africa in 2022.
Tajikistan went a decade without a case of polio emerging until 2021.
And then, 1 case of paralysis from polio turned into 34.
UNICEF and partners responded quickly, delivering millions of the oral polio vaccine and supporting a mass rollout. https://t.co/yL32Kas3na
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) July 15, 2022
The numbers are worked out using data from national health systems in 177 countries.
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