More

    WHO, UNICEF Say Largest Fall in Vaccinations in Three Decades Accelerated by Pandemic

    ChildrenWHO, UNICEF Say Largest Fall in Vaccinations in Three...
    - Advertisment -

    WHO, UNICEF Say Largest Fall in Vaccinations in Three Decades Accelerated by Pandemic

    It was hoped that 2021 would be a year of recovery during which strained immunization programmes would rebuild and the cohort of children missed in 2020 would be caught-up. Instead, the historic backsliding in rates of immunization is happening against a backdrop of rapidly rising rates of severe acute malnutrition.

    The largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years has been recorded in official data published today by WHO and UNICEF.

    WHO and UNICEF have now sound the alarm as global vaccination coverage has continued to decline in 2021, with 25 million infants falling out of the vaccine net.

    “This is a red alert for child health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

    - Advertisement -

    “While a pandemic hangover was expected last year as a result of COVID-19 disruptions and lockdowns, what we are seeing now is a continued decline,” Russel said. “COVID-19 is not an excuse. We need immunization catch-ups for the missing millions or we will inevitably witness more outbreaks, more sick children and greater pressure on already strained health systems.”

    Multiple factors

    The percentage of children who received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) – a marker for immunization coverage within and across countries – fell five percentage points between 2019 and 2021 to 81 per cent.

    As a result, 25 million children missed out on one or more doses of DTP through routine immunization services in 2021 alone. This is 2 million more than those who missed out in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019, highlighting the growing number of children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases.

    WHO and UNICEF explain that the decline was due to many factors including an increased number of children living in conflict and fragile settings where immunization access is often challenging, increased misinformation and COVID-19 related issues such as service and supply chain disruptions, resource diversion to response efforts, and containment measures that limited immunization service access and availability.

    18 million of the 25 million children did not receive a single dose of DTP during the year, the vast majority of whom live in low- and middle-income countries, with India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethiopia and the Philippines recording the highest numbers. Among countries with the largest relative increases in the number of children who did not receive a single vaccine between 2019 and 2021 are Myanmar and Mozambique.

    Globally, over a quarter of the coverage of HPV vaccines that was achieved in 2019 has been lost. This has grave consequences for the health of women and girls, as global coverage of the first dose of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is only 15 per cent, despite the first vaccines being licensed over 15 years ago.

    Not a question of either/or

    It was hoped that 2021 would be a year of recovery during which strained immunization programmes would rebuild and the cohort of children missed in 2020 would be caught-up. Instead, DTP3 coverage was set back to its lowest level since 2008 which, along with declines in coverage for other basic vaccines, pushed the world off-track to meet global goals, including the immunization indicator for the Sustainable Development Goals.

    This historic backsliding in rates of immunization is happening against a backdrop of rapidly rising rates of severe acute malnutrition. A malnourished child already has weakened immunity and missed vaccinations can mean common childhood illnesses quickly become lethal to them. The convergence of a hunger crisis with a growing immunization gap threatens to create the conditions for a child survival crisis.

    Vaccine coverage dropped in every region, with the East Asia and Pacific region recording the steepest reversal in DTP3 coverage, falling nine percentage points in just two years.

    “Planning and tackling COVID-19 should also go hand-in-hand with vaccinating for killer diseases like measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “It’s not a question of either/or, it’s possible to do both”.

    Some countries notably held off declines. Uganda maintained high levels of coverage in routine immunization programmes, whilst rolling out a targeted COVID-19 vaccination programme to protect priority populations, including health workers. Similarly, Pakistan returned to pre-pandemic levels of coverage thanks to high-level government commitment and significant catch-up immunization efforts. To achieve this in the midst of a pandemic, when healthcare systems and health workers were under significant strain, should be applauded.

    Measles, polio outbreaks

    Monumental efforts will be required to reach universal levels of coverage and to prevent outbreaks. Inadequate coverage levels have already resulted in avoidable outbreaks of measles and polio in the past 12 months, underscoring the vital role of immunization in keeping children, adolescents, adults, and societies healthy. The number of reported worldwide measles cases increased by 79 per cent in the first two months of 2022 compared to the same time last year.

    First dose measles coverage dropped to 81 per cent in 2021, also the lowest level since 2008. This meant 24.7 million children missed their first measles dose in 2021, 5.3 million more than in 2019. A further 14.7 million did not receive their needed second dose. Similarly, compared to 2019, 6.7 million more children missed the third dose of polio vaccine and 3.5 million missed the first dose of the HPV vaccine- which protects girls against cervical cancer later in life.

    The sharp two-year decline follows almost a decade of stalled progress, underscoring the need to not only address pandemic-related disruptions but also systemic immunization challenges to ensure every child and adolescent is reached.

    - Advertisement -

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Latest news

    Indian Government Launches Second Phase of Scheme to Mentor Young Authors

    YUVA 2.0 is being launched in view of the significant impact of the first edition of YUVA that saw...

    Message From New Delhi: Sufficient Foodgrains Stocks Available

    The ministry said that sufficient stocks of food grains are available to meet the requirement of National Food Security...

    Aarambh by Jeevitam : To Aid Women Find Livelihoods

    Resting on a women helpline number in over 21 Indian languages, Aarambh will soon be launching a series of...

    Tamil Nadu NGOs Work With University to Restore Heritage Rice Varieties

    A majority of small and medium farmers of Tamil Nadu have lost their heritage seeds, once owned traditionally by...
    - Advertisement -

    Working with Women to Bring More Women to the Workforce

    Jeevitam’s latest initiative, called the Audacious initiative will be launched on Sunday 2 October. This is a partnership with...

    Nepal Government, UN Agency Seek Investors for Latest Cash Crop to Boom in Country’s East

    Cardamom, mountain potato, ginger and timur have been assessed using the government’s Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plan, which FAO says...

    Must read

    Indian Government Launches Second Phase of Scheme to Mentor Young Authors

    YUVA 2.0 is being launched in view of the...

    Message From New Delhi: Sufficient Foodgrains Stocks Available

    The ministry said that sufficient stocks of food grains...
    - Advertisement -

    More from the sectionRELATED
    Recommended to you