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COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Major Backsliding on Childhood Vaccinations, New WHO, UNICEF Data Shows

This news release originally appeared on the WHO’s website here. Below is an excerpt. 

23 million children missed out on basic vaccines through routine immunization services in 2020 – 3.7 million more than in 2019 – according to official data published today by WHO and UNICEF. This latest set of comprehensive worldwide childhood immunization figures, the first official figures to reflect global service disruptions due to COVID-19, show a majority of countries last year experienced drops in childhood vaccination rates.

Concerningly, most of these – up to 17 million children – likely did not receive a single vaccine during the year, widening already immense inequities in vaccine access. Most of these children live in communities affected by conflict, in under-served remote places, or in informal or slum settings where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic health and key social services.

Disruptions in immunization services were widespread in 2020, with the WHO Southeast Asian and Eastern Mediterranean Regions most affected.  As access to health services and immunization outreach were curtailed, the number of children not receiving even their very first vaccinations increased in all regions. As compared with 2019, 3.5 million more children missed their first dose of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP-1) while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose.

Table 1: Countries with the greatest increase in children not receiving a first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis combined vaccine (DTP-1)

2019 2020
India 1’403’000 3’038’000
Pakistan 567’000 968’000
Indonesia 472’000 797’000
Philippines 450’000 557’000
Mexico 348000 454’000
Mozambique 97’000 186’000
Angola 399’000 482’000
United Republic of Tanzania 183’000 249’000
Argentina 97’000 156’000
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 75’000 134’000
Mali 136’000 193’000

 

The data shows that middle-income countries now account for an increasing share of unprotected children – that is, children missing out on at least some vaccine doses. India is experiencing a particularly large drop, with DTP-3 coverage falling from 91% to 85%.

Fuelled by funding shortfalls, vaccine misinformation, instability and other factors, a troubling picture is also emerging in WHO’s Region of the Americas, where vaccination coverage continues to fall. Just 82% of children are fully vaccinated with DTP, down from 91% in 2016.

Read the full news release here

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